To: U.S. Senate, U.S. House of Representatives
Sign Petition at:
The 13th Amendment to the Constitution reads: "Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction."
Sign this petition to demand that Congress revisit the 13th Amendment and propose a new amendment to the Constitution that abolishes free prison labor and applies the federal minimum wage to all labor in the U.S. and its imperial territories.
Why is this important?
The 13th Amendment (1865) ordered the abolition of slavery in the United States, except as punishment for a criminal conviction. In other words, federal law permits the use of prisoners and incarcerated persons for free labor by state officials as well as the private sector.
From the late 1800s until now, unpaid prison labor has been the pattern, practice, and collective mindset of various states across America. Southern states have taken particular advantage of the wording of the 13th Amendment, and in turn, current resistance movements have risen out of prison-dense states like Texas and Alabama, where units are often compared to plantations.
Over the past few years, prison activists in Texas and Alabama have organized a series of prison-labor strikes -- where they refuse to work their assigned jobs in protest of unpaid labor compounded with toxic and unsanitary working conditions. The prison-labor strikes have led to prison lockdowns, starvation tactics and brutality by guards. Thus far, three prison units in Alabama and fourteen units in Texas (including a women's unit) have been placed on lockdown in reprisal for a collective work-stoppage.
RootsAction stands in solidarity with these prison activists fighting for their human rights, and we urge you to do the same. Prisoners, like all other human beings, should be compensated for their labor, whether with wages or with reduced sentences.
Paying prisoners for their labor enables them, not only to better provide for themselves while in prison, but also to pay outstanding bills and unpaid court fees that have accumulated over time (and that may have landed many of them in prison in the first place). Compensating prisoners for their labor through a legitimate "Work Time" system that reduces their sentence grants hardworking prisoners the opportunity to be reviewed early by parole boards and released back into society. This system also relieves state taxpayers, through the simple fact that an earned early release is one less prisoner to pay for.
END PRISON SLAVERY NOW
Sign this petition to demand that Congress revisit the 13th Amendment and propose a new amendment to the Constitution that abolishes free prison labor and applies the federal minimum wage to all labor in the U.S. and its imperial territories.
On August 17th, Governor Cuomo granted clemency to five deserving people, including Jon-Adrian (JJ) Velasquez, one of the people we recommended in concert with David Gilbert.
The Governor did not grant clemency to David.
But there is still time.
Governor Cuomo’s term ends at 11:59 PM on Monday, August 23.
We have one final chance to urge Gov. Cuomo to grant clemency to DAVID GILBERT.
Don't wait -- Help David TODAY!
1. Contact Governor Cuomo
If you have already done so, please do it again. Let's flood the lines.
· Send an email message to the Governor (select "Criminal Justice")
· Call the Albany Executive Chamber: (518) 474-8390 x 3, then x 1 to leave a message.
· Call the NYC Executive Chamber: (212) 681-4580 and leave a message.
2. Spread the Word
· Share on social media. Use your networks.
Find graphics and content formatted for Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram on our website:
· Urge three friends to our website to learn more about David. (Already emailed three friends the other day? Email three more!):
David Gilbert is 76-years-old. He has served 40 years in prison, and is one of New York State’s oldest and longest-serving prisoners.
David will be a productive members of free society. He has been incarcerated for 40 years without a disciplinary violation, and has consistently promoted peace and positive programs in prison. His codefendants have been freed and are living constructive and peaceful lives.
David has positively impacted the lives of many. Since his incarceration, he has been a mentor to many young men in prison, counseling nonviolence and respect for women. He is a founder of the first prison peer HIV/AIDS counseling program, saving many lives and becoming a model for the corrections system.
David has broad support for clemency. Supporters range from former prosecutors, law enforcement, and corrections officials to young people in prison; from Nobel Peace Prize Laureates to community organizers around HIV/AIDS; from bishops and other religious leaders, as well as state legislators, to hundreds of health care professionals and university and law school professors.
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: email@example.com
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.
I hope this note finds you well. I want to share with you the release of the 2022 “Colors from Palestine” Calendar. The calendar features 12 Palestinian artwork paying tribute to the role of the Palestinian women as the guardian and the protector of the Palestinian struggle and liberation
“Our Glorious Canaanites women will always guard our Palestinian dream” - Ghassan Kanafani
The calendar is dedicated to the memory of the late Palestinian author political activist Ghassan Kanafani who was assassinated by the Israeli Mossad with his niece Lamis in Lebanon 50 year ago (July 8th 1972). The calendar features one of his short stories for children “The Little Lantern” which he wrote to his niece Lamis on her 8th birthday
To view the artwork and order the calendar, please visit: https://resistanceart.com/gallery/
For phone order and all other questions, please call 416-890-2331
Thank you for your continued support
A BRILLIANT, BRAVE, BLACK POLITICAL JOURNALIST
PLEASE CALL AND EMAIL ON BEHALF OF KEVIN RASHID JOHNSON!
𝘼𝙡𝙡 𝙋2𝙋 𝙤𝙣 𝙩𝙝𝙞𝙨 𝙨𝙚𝙘𝙤𝙣𝙙 𝙙𝙖𝙮 𝙤𝙛 𝘽𝙡𝙖𝙘𝙠 𝘼𝙪𝙜𝙪𝙨𝙩. 𝙊𝙪𝙧 𝙘𝙤𝙢𝙧𝙖𝙙𝙚 𝙍𝙖𝙨𝙝𝙞𝙙 𝙨𝙩𝙞𝙡𝙡 𝙣𝙚𝙚𝙙𝙨 𝙤𝙪𝙧 𝙖𝙨𝙨𝙞𝙨𝙩𝙖𝙣𝙘𝙚. 𝙄𝙩 𝙞𝙨𝙞𝙢𝙥𝙚𝙧𝙖𝙩𝙞𝙫𝙚 𝙩𝙝𝙖𝙩 𝙘𝙖𝙡𝙡𝙨 𝙖𝙣𝙙 𝙚𝙢𝙖𝙞𝙡𝙨 𝙨𝙩𝙞𝙡𝙡 𝙗𝙚 𝙢𝙖𝙙𝙚 𝙤𝙣 𝙝𝙞𝙨 𝙗𝙚𝙝𝙖𝙡𝙛 𝙩𝙤 𝙩𝙝𝙚 𝙘𝙤𝙣𝙩𝙖𝙘𝙩𝙨 𝙡𝙞𝙨𝙩𝙚𝙙 𝙗𝙚𝙡𝙤𝙬. 𝙎𝙤𝙢𝙚𝙤𝙣𝙚𝙘𝙤𝙣𝙩𝙖𝙘𝙩𝙚𝙙 𝙢𝙚 𝙚𝙖𝙧𝙡𝙞𝙚𝙧 𝙩𝙤 𝙩𝙚𝙡𝙡 𝙢𝙚 𝙩𝙝𝙖𝙩 𝙍𝙖𝙨𝙝𝙞𝙙'𝙨 𝙘𝙚𝙡𝙡 𝙝𝙖𝙨 𝙗𝙚𝙚𝙣 𝙨𝙚𝙖𝙧𝙘𝙝𝙚𝙙 𝙩𝙬𝙞𝙘𝙚 𝙩𝙝𝙞𝙨 𝙢𝙤𝙧𝙣𝙞𝙣𝙜 𝙖𝙨 𝙩𝙝𝙚𝙮𝙗𝙚𝙡𝙞𝙚𝙫𝙚 𝙩𝙝𝙖𝙩 𝙝𝙚 𝙞𝙨 𝙨𝙩𝙞𝙡𝙡 𝙘𝙤𝙢𝙢𝙪𝙣𝙞𝙘𝙖𝙩𝙞𝙣𝙜 𝙬𝙞𝙩𝙝 𝙩𝙝𝙚 𝙤𝙪𝙩𝙨𝙞𝙙𝙚. 𝙏𝙝𝙚 𝙤𝙩𝙝𝙚𝙧 𝙥𝙧𝙞𝙨𝙤𝙣𝙚𝙧𝙨 𝙝𝙖𝙫𝙚 𝙗𝙚𝙚𝙣 𝙞𝙣𝙨𝙩𝙧𝙪𝙘𝙩𝙚𝙙𝙣𝙤𝙩 𝙩𝙤 𝙩𝙖𝙡𝙠 𝙩𝙤 𝙝𝙞𝙢 𝙤𝙧 𝙖𝙨𝙨𝙞𝙨𝙩 𝙝𝙞𝙢 𝙞𝙣 𝙖𝙣𝙮 𝙬𝙖𝙮. 𝙏𝙝𝙚 𝙥𝙞𝙜𝙨 𝙖𝙧𝙚 𝙖𝙩𝙩𝙚𝙢𝙥𝙩𝙞𝙣𝙜 𝙩𝙤 𝙨𝙤𝙬 𝙙𝙞𝙫𝙞𝙨𝙞𝙤𝙣 𝙥𝙚𝙧 𝙪𝙨𝙪𝙖𝙡. - Shupavu Wa Kirima
𝙒𝙚 𝙖𝙧𝙚 𝙨𝙩𝙞𝙡𝙡 𝙙𝙚𝙢𝙖𝙣𝙙𝙞𝙣𝙜 𝙩𝙝𝙚 𝙛𝙤𝙡𝙡𝙤𝙬𝙞𝙣𝙜:
1. 𝘼𝙣 𝙚𝙣𝙙 𝙩𝙤 𝙩𝙝𝙚 𝙗𝙤𝙜𝙪𝙨 30 𝙙𝙖𝙮 𝙧𝙚𝙨𝙩𝙧𝙞𝙘𝙩𝙞𝙤𝙣 𝙛𝙧𝙤𝙢 𝙥𝙝𝙤𝙣𝙚 𝙖𝙣𝙙 𝙚𝙢𝙖𝙞𝙡.
2. 𝘼𝙣 𝙚𝙣𝙙 𝙩𝙤 𝙩𝙝𝙚 𝙗𝙤𝙜𝙪𝙨 30 𝙙𝙖𝙮 𝙧𝙚𝙨𝙩𝙧𝙞𝙘𝙩𝙞𝙤𝙣 𝙛𝙧𝙤𝙢 𝙘𝙤𝙢𝙢𝙞𝙨𝙨𝙖𝙧𝙮 𝙩𝙝𝙖𝙩 𝙥𝙧𝙚𝙫𝙚𝙣𝙩𝙨 𝙍𝙖𝙨𝙝𝙞𝙙 𝙛𝙧𝙤𝙢 𝙤𝙧𝙙𝙚𝙧𝙞𝙣𝙜𝙨𝙩𝙖𝙩𝙞𝙤𝙣𝙚𝙧𝙮 𝙬𝙞𝙩𝙝 𝙬𝙝𝙞𝙘𝙝 𝙩𝙤 𝙬𝙧𝙞𝙩𝙚.
3. 𝙏𝙝𝙚 𝙞𝙢𝙢𝙚𝙙𝙞𝙖𝙩𝙚 𝙧𝙚𝙩𝙪𝙧𝙣 𝙤𝙛 𝘼𝙇𝙇 𝙤𝙛 𝙝𝙞𝙨 𝙥𝙧𝙤𝙥𝙚𝙧𝙩𝙮 𝙞𝙣𝙘𝙡𝙪𝙙𝙞𝙣𝙜 𝙩𝙝𝙚 $400 𝙩𝙝𝙖𝙩 𝙬𝙖𝙨 𝙤𝙣 𝙝𝙞𝙨 𝙩𝙧𝙪𝙨𝙩 𝙖𝙘𝙘𝙤𝙪𝙣𝙩𝙩𝙝𝙚𝙧𝙚 𝙖𝙩 𝙒𝙑𝘾𝙁 𝙖𝙣𝙙 𝙝𝙞𝙨 𝙡𝙚𝙜𝙖𝙡 𝙥𝙧𝙤𝙥𝙚𝙧𝙩𝙮 𝙬𝙝𝙞𝙘𝙝 𝙬𝙞𝙡𝙡 𝙚𝙣𝙖𝙗𝙡𝙚 𝙝𝙞𝙢 𝙩𝙤 𝙘𝙤𝙣𝙩𝙞𝙣𝙪𝙚 𝙬𝙞𝙩𝙝 𝙝𝙞𝙨 𝙘𝙖𝙨𝙚 𝙖𝙜𝙖𝙞𝙣𝙨𝙩 𝙩𝙝𝙚 𝙄𝙉𝘿𝙚𝙥𝙖𝙧𝙩𝙢𝙚𝙣𝙩 𝙤𝙛 𝘾𝙤𝙧𝙧𝙚𝙘𝙩𝙞𝙤𝙣𝙨. 𝙄𝙛 𝙩𝙝𝙚𝙮 𝙩𝙚𝙡𝙡 𝙮𝙤𝙪 𝙩𝙝𝙖𝙩 𝙝𝙞𝙨 𝙥𝙧𝙤𝙥𝙚𝙧𝙩𝙮 𝙝𝙖𝙨 𝙖𝙡𝙧𝙚𝙖𝙙𝙮 𝙗𝙚𝙚𝙣 𝙨𝙚𝙣𝙩 𝙩𝙝𝙚𝙣 𝙬𝙚 𝙣𝙚𝙚𝙙 𝙩𝙤𝙠𝙣𝙤𝙬 𝙤𝙣 𝙬𝙝𝙖𝙩 𝙙𝙖𝙩𝙚 𝙞𝙩 𝙬𝙖𝙨 𝙨𝙝𝙞𝙥𝙥𝙚𝙙 𝙖𝙣𝙙 𝙬𝙝𝙖𝙩 𝙛𝙖𝙘𝙞𝙡𝙞𝙩𝙮 𝙧𝙚𝙘𝙚𝙞𝙫𝙚𝙙 𝙞𝙩.
𝙏𝙝𝙖𝙣𝙠 𝙮𝙤𝙪 𝙖𝙡𝙡 𝙨𝙤 𝙢𝙪𝙘𝙝 𝙛𝙤𝙧 𝙮𝙤𝙪𝙧 𝙨𝙤𝙡𝙞𝙙𝙖𝙧𝙞𝙩𝙮 𝙖𝙣𝙙 𝙨𝙪𝙥𝙥𝙤𝙧𝙩. 𝙄 𝙖𝙥𝙥𝙧𝙚𝙘𝙞𝙖𝙩𝙚 𝙖𝙡𝙡 𝙤𝙛 𝙮𝙤𝙪. 𝙒𝙚 𝙖𝙧𝙚 𝙩𝙝𝙚 𝙊𝙉𝙇𝙔𝙡𝙞𝙣𝙚 𝙤𝙛 𝙙𝙚𝙛𝙚𝙣𝙨𝙚 𝙛𝙤𝙧 𝙤𝙪𝙧 𝙞𝙢𝙥𝙧𝙞𝙨𝙤𝙣𝙚𝙙 𝙘𝙤𝙢𝙧𝙖𝙙𝙚𝙨.
* 𝘼𝙣𝙣𝙚𝙩𝙩𝙚 𝘾𝙝𝙖𝙢𝙗𝙚𝙧𝙨-𝙎𝙢𝙞𝙩𝙝, 𝘿𝙞𝙧𝙚𝙘𝙩𝙤𝙧 𝙤𝙛 𝙊𝙝𝙞𝙤 𝘿𝙚𝙥𝙖𝙧𝙩 𝙤𝙛 𝙍𝙚𝙝𝙖𝙗𝙞𝙡𝙞𝙩𝙖𝙩𝙞𝙤𝙣 𝙖𝙣𝙙 𝘾𝙤𝙧𝙧𝙚𝙘𝙩𝙞𝙤𝙣𝙨 𝙥𝙡𝙚𝙖𝙨𝙚𝙘𝙤𝙣𝙩𝙖𝙘𝙩: 𝙈𝙚𝙡𝙞𝙨𝙨𝙖 𝘼𝙙𝙠𝙞𝙣𝙨 (𝙀𝙭𝙚𝙘𝙪𝙩𝙞𝙫𝙚 𝘼𝙨𝙨𝙞𝙨𝙩𝙖𝙣𝙩) 𝙫𝙞𝙖 𝙚𝙢𝙖𝙞𝙡: 𝙢𝙚𝙡𝙞𝙨𝙨𝙖.𝙖𝙙𝙠𝙞𝙣𝙨@𝙤𝙙𝙧𝙘.𝙨𝙩𝙖𝙩𝙚.𝙤𝙝.𝙪𝙨 𝙤 614-752-1153.
* 𝙍𝙤𝙣𝙖𝙡𝙙 𝙀𝙧𝙙𝙤𝙨, 𝙎𝙤𝙪𝙩𝙝𝙚𝙧𝙣 𝙊𝙝𝙞𝙤 𝘾𝙤𝙧𝙧𝙚𝙘𝙩𝙞𝙤𝙣𝙖𝙡 𝙁𝙖𝙘𝙞𝙡𝙞𝙩𝙮, 𝙒𝙖𝙧𝙙𝙚𝙣 (𝙇𝙪𝙘𝙖𝙨𝙫𝙞𝙡𝙡𝙚) (740)259-5544 𝙙𝙧𝙘.𝙨𝙤𝙘𝙛@𝙤𝙙𝙧𝙘.𝙨𝙩𝙖𝙩𝙚.𝙤𝙝𝙞𝙤.𝙪𝙨
*𝙅𝙤𝙨𝙚𝙥𝙝 𝙒𝙖𝙡𝙩𝙚𝙧𝙨, 𝘿𝙚𝙥. 𝘿𝙞𝙧𝙚𝙘𝙩𝙤𝙧 𝙑𝙞𝙧𝙜𝙞𝙣𝙞𝙖 𝘿𝙚𝙥𝙖𝙧𝙩𝙢𝙚𝙣𝙩 𝙊𝙛 𝘾𝙤𝙧𝙧𝙚𝙘𝙩𝙞𝙤𝙣𝙨𝙟𝙤𝙨𝙚𝙥𝙝.𝙬𝙖𝙡𝙩𝙚𝙧𝙨@𝙫𝙖𝙙𝙤𝙘.𝙫𝙞𝙧𝙜𝙞𝙣𝙞𝙖.𝙜𝙤𝙫 (𝙋𝙧𝙤𝙭𝙮 𝙛𝙤𝙧 𝙃𝙖𝙧𝙤𝙡𝙙 𝙒. 𝘾𝙡𝙖𝙧𝙠𝙚, 𝘿𝙞𝙧𝙚𝙘𝙩𝙤𝙧 𝙤𝙛 𝙩𝙝𝙚 𝘿𝙚𝙥𝙖𝙧𝙩𝙢𝙚𝙣𝙩 𝙤𝙛𝘾𝙤𝙧𝙧𝙚𝙘𝙩𝙞𝙤𝙣𝙨) (804)887-7982
*𝙅𝙖𝙢𝙚𝙨 𝙋𝙖𝙧𝙠, 𝙄𝙣𝙩𝙚𝙧𝙨𝙩𝙖𝙩𝙚 𝘾𝙤𝙢𝙥𝙖𝙘𝙩 𝘼𝙙𝙢𝙞𝙣𝙞𝙨𝙩𝙧𝙖𝙩𝙤𝙧 𝙅𝙖𝙢𝙚𝙨.𝙥𝙖𝙧𝙠@𝙫𝙖𝙙𝙤𝙘.𝙫𝙞𝙧𝙜𝙞𝙣𝙞𝙖.𝙜𝙤𝙫
* 𝘾𝙝𝙖𝙧𝙡𝙚𝙣𝙚 𝘽𝙪𝙧𝙠𝙚𝙩𝙩, 𝘿𝙞𝙧𝙚𝙘𝙩𝙤𝙧 𝘿𝙊𝘾 𝙊𝙢𝙗𝙪𝙙𝙨𝙢𝙖𝙣 𝘽𝙪𝙧𝙚𝙖𝙪 (𝙄𝙣𝙙𝙞𝙖𝙣𝙖) (317) 234-3190 𝙊𝙢𝙗𝙪𝙙@𝙞𝙙𝙤𝙖.𝙞𝙣.𝙜𝙤𝙫 𝙍𝙞𝙘𝙝𝙖𝙧𝙙 𝘽𝙧𝙤𝙬𝙣, 𝙒𝙖𝙧𝙙𝙚𝙣 𝙒𝙖𝙗𝙖𝙨𝙝 𝙑𝙖𝙡𝙡𝙚𝙮 𝘾𝙤𝙧𝙧𝙚𝙘𝙩𝙞𝙤𝙣𝙖𝙡 𝙁𝙖𝙘𝙞𝙡𝙞𝙩𝙮, 𝙄𝙣𝙙𝙞𝙖𝙣𝙖 (812) 398-5050
* 𝙍𝙞𝙘𝙝𝙖𝙧𝙙 𝘽𝙧𝙤𝙬𝙣, 𝙒𝙖𝙧𝙙𝙚𝙣 𝙒𝙖𝙗𝙖𝙨𝙝 𝙑𝙖𝙡𝙡𝙚𝙮 𝘾𝙤𝙧𝙧𝙚𝙘𝙩𝙞𝙤𝙣𝙖𝙡 𝙁𝙖𝙘𝙞𝙡𝙞𝙩𝙮, 𝙄𝙣𝙙𝙞𝙖𝙣𝙖 (812) 398-5050
*𝙘𝙤𝙣𝙩𝙖𝙘𝙩 𝙑𝙞𝙧𝙜𝙞𝙣𝙖 𝘿𝙊𝘾 𝙖𝙪𝙩𝙝𝙤𝙧𝙞𝙩𝙞𝙚𝙨 𝙗𝙚𝙘𝙖𝙪𝙨𝙚 𝙑𝘼 𝙥𝙧𝙞𝙨𝙤𝙣𝙚𝙧𝙨 𝙩𝙧𝙖𝙣𝙨𝙛𝙚𝙧𝙧𝙚𝙙 𝙤𝙣 𝙞𝙣𝙩𝙚𝙧-𝙨𝙩𝙖𝙩𝙚 𝙘𝙤𝙢𝙥𝙖𝙘𝙩𝙨 𝙖𝙧𝙚𝙨𝙪𝙥𝙥𝙤𝙨𝙚𝙙 𝙩𝙤 𝙝𝙖𝙫𝙚 𝙖𝙡𝙡 𝙩𝙝𝙚 𝙧𝙞𝙜𝙝𝙩𝙨 𝙤𝙛 𝙑𝘼 𝙥𝙧𝙞𝙨𝙤𝙣𝙚𝙧𝙨. 𝙍𝙖𝙨𝙝𝙞𝙙 𝙬𝙖𝙨 𝙤𝙧𝙞𝙜𝙞𝙣𝙖𝙡𝙡𝙮 𝙞𝙣𝙘𝙖𝙧𝙘𝙚𝙧𝙖𝙩𝙚𝙙 𝙞𝙣 𝙑𝘼 𝙗𝙚𝙛𝙤𝙧𝙚𝙩𝙧𝙖𝙣𝙨𝙛𝙚𝙧𝙨 𝙩𝙤 𝙊𝙧𝙚𝙜𝙤𝙣, 𝙏𝙚𝙭𝙖𝙨, 𝙁𝙡𝙤𝙧𝙞𝙙𝙖, 𝙄𝙣𝙙𝙞𝙖𝙣𝙖, 𝙖𝙣𝙙 𝙣𝙤𝙬 𝙊𝙝𝙞𝙤.
Our mailing address is:
Kevin Rashid Johnson
P.O. Box 45699
Lucasville, OH 45699
THE RIBPP & PSO'S STATEMENT ON COMRADE KEVIN RASHID JOHNSON
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
All Power to the People!
Kevin “Rashid” Johnson is a political theorist, artist, and advocate for prisoners’ rights who has spent almost his entire adult life incarcerated in various U.S. prisons. A founder of the Revolutionary Intercommunal Black Panther Party (and, before that, of the New Afrikan Black Panther Party-Prison Chapter), Rashid’s writings and litigation have made him the target of continual and ongoing repression from prison authorities.
Rashid, as he is known to friends and supporters, was recently transferred to Ohio from the Indiana Department of Corrections (IDOC). This is just the latest in a series of transfers between multiple correctional facilities and state jurisdictions, all made possible by the Interstate Compact Transfer Agreement. As such, although originally a prisoner of the Virginia Department of Corrections (VADOC), Rashid has been sent to Oregon, Texas, Florida, and Indiana, prior to his current captivity in Ohio.
This most recent transfer was initiated in an attempt to obstruct litigation Rashid is currently pressing against IDOC for its use of solitary confinement and treatment of prisoners while in solitary confinement. Rashid was told by IDOC officials a week prior to his transfer that if he persisted and did not drop the cases he would be transferred to someplace where he "would not like the conditions." This retaliatory transfer has made it impossible for Rashid to access legal property and materials needed to meet court deadlines, answer motions, and respond to the court. Prior to this transfer, Rashid warned IDOC that he would be seeking citations of contempt in regard to IDOC's attempt at entering false evidence and concealing other evidentiary material in one of Rashid's pending cases. (IDOC has been sanctioned previously for submitting false evidence and concealing evidence in Indiana's Southern District U.S. Federal Court and settled for over $100,000; see Littler v. Martinez.)
Rashid is being denied access to the phone, legal property, and to commissary where he would be able to purchase stationery to continue his litigation against the IDOC. It is clear and apparent at this point that the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections (ODRC) is colluding with IDOC in their attempt to deny Rashid his right to pursue these cases.
Rashid is currently being held at the notorious Southern Ohio Correctional Facility (SOCF) in Lucasville, where, in April of 1993, nine prisoners were killed in an eleven-day standoff with prison staff. The legacy of racist, fascist brutality continues to thrive at SOCF. Mr. Johnson has been moved to the area of the prison where various white supremacist gangs are most concentrated.
It was there on Monday, August 2, 2021, that according to Rashid, Sgt. Joshua McAllister threatened him with the following statements:
“I’m an old school dirty cop. I’ve been doing this since I was a teenager. We know how to set it up and make it look justified. You must not know about us. We are worse than the Klan… We have a unit where we execute inmates. We starve ‘em. We hang ‘em.”
That a prison official would be so bold in 2021, just one year after the Rebellion of Summer 2020, as to issue such threats to a Black prisoner, given the current climate around race relations and law enforcement, will not be tolerated. This needs to be understood. This is an example of the depravity and cruelty of the U.S. prison system and of many of those who work within it. Prisons frequently move incarcerated people out of public view, torturing, disappearing, and killing them without any visibility or accountability for their actions.
Rashid is a long-time political leader, writer, artist, activist and organizer. He is being targeted because of his political beliefs, his many published pieces documenting prison abuse and torture, and efforts at organizing for better conditions. Rashid, completely self-taught in the fields of law and political theory/practice, has become well known both nationally and internationally, as someone who is always willing to put himself on the line on behalf of his fellow incarcerated comrades, and marginalized and oppressed people
everywhere. It is for this reason that the ODRC, IDOC, and VADOC, in conjunction with other state/federal agencies, continue to try and silence Rashid through intimidation, torture, beatings, threats, and outright attempted murder.
WE WILL NOT STAND FOR IT! AND WE PETITION EVERYONE WHO SEES THIS STATEMENT TO JOIN WITH US IN SOLIDARITY AND DEFENSE OF THIS COURAGEOUS FREEDOM FIGHTER!
WE, THE UNDERSIGNED*,
DEMAND THE FOLLOWING:
· AN END TO THE 30 DAY RESTRICTION FROM COMMUNICATING VIA PHONE/EMAIL.
· AN END TO THE 30 DAY RESTRICTION FROM COMMISSARY THAT PREVENTS RASHID FROM ORDERING STATIONERY WITH WHICH TO WRITE.
· THE IMMEDIATE RETURN OF ALL OF HIS PROPERTY, INCLUDING THE $400 THAT WAS ON HIS TRUST ACCOUNT AT WABASH VALLEY CORRECTIONAL FACILITY AND HIS LEGAL PROPERTY, WHICH WILL ENABLE HIM TO CONTINUE WITH HIS CASES AGAINST THE INDIANA DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS. IF HIS PROPERTY HAS ALREADY BEEN SENT, WE WANT TO KNOW ON WHAT DATE IT WAS SHIPPED AND WHAT FACILITY RECEIVED IT.
· WE DEMAND THAT SGT. JOSHUA MCALLISTER FACE IMMEDIATE CONSEQUENCES FOR THE DISGUSTINGLY RACIST THREATS INCLUDING BUT NOT LIMITED TO HIS REMOVAL FROM HIS POST AT SOCF!
· LASTLY, WE DEMAND AN IMMEDIATE INVESTIGATION/INQUIRY INTO THE SUPPOSED J-1 UNIT AND ALL PARTIES INVOLVED.
DARE TO STRUGGLE, DARE TO WIN!
ALL POWER TO THE PEOPLE!
For further inquiries on how to assist in this cause, please contact comrade Shupavu Wa Kirima at:
Notes & citations:
Littler v. Martinez
*Organizations who are endorsing this statement: Revolutionary Intercommunal Black Panther Party (RIBPP), Panther Solidarity Organization (PSO)-Newark, PSO-Ridgewood, PSO-Boston, PSO-Richmond, PSO-Kansas City, Third World Peoples' Alliance (TWPA), Kersplebedeb Publishing, Newark Water Coalition, Ridgewood For Black Liberation, Tennessee Valley Mutual Aid, For The People (FTP)-STL, FTP-Chicago, FTP-Bloomington, FTP-Cleveland, FTP-Wichita, FTP-OK, Oklahoma People's Party, Autonomous Brown Berets of Oklahoma, Young EcoSocialists-New Jersey, Party For Communism and Revolution, Serve The People (STP)-Akron, IDOC Watch, Roanoke Jail Solidarity, Princeton Mutual Aid, San Francisco Bay View
Freedom for Major Tillery! End his Life Imprisonment!
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
Please share the link with your comrades and friends.
All the best,
Photo from San Francisco rally and march in support of Palestine Saturday, May 15, 2021
Stand with Palestine!
Say NO to apartheid!
Join the global movement in solidarity with the Palestinian people.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Contact: Governor's Press Office
Friday, May 28, 2021
Governor Newsom Announces Clemency Actions, Signs Executive Order for Independent Investigation of Kevin Cooper Case
SACRAMENTO – Governor Gavin Newsom today announced that he has granted 14 pardons, 13 commutations and 8 medical reprieves. In addition, the Governor signed an executive order to launch an independent investigation of death row inmate Kevin Cooper’s case as part of the evaluation of Cooper’s application for clemency.
The investigation will review trial and appellate records in the case, the facts underlying the conviction and all available evidence, including the results of the recently conducted DNA tests previously ordered by the Governor to examine additional evidence in the case using the latest, most scientifically reliable forensic testing.
The text of the Governor’s executive order can be found here:
The California Constitution gives the Governor the authority to grant executive clemency in the form of a pardon, commutation or reprieve. These clemency grants recognize the applicants’ subsequent efforts in self-development or the existence of a medical exigency. They do not forgive or minimize the harm caused.
The Governor regards clemency as an important part of the criminal justice system that can incentivize accountability and rehabilitation, increase public safety by removing counterproductive barriers to successful reentry, correct unjust results in the legal system and address the health needs of incarcerated people with high medical risks.
A pardon may remove counterproductive barriers to employment and public service, restore civic rights and responsibilities and prevent unjust collateral consequences of conviction, such as deportation and permanent family separation. A pardon does not expunge or erase a conviction.
A commutation modifies a sentence, making an incarcerated person eligible for an earlier release or allowing them to go before the Board of Parole Hearings for a hearing at which Parole Commissioners determine whether the individual is suitable for release.
A reprieve allows individuals classified by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation as high medical risk to serve their sentences in appropriate alternative placements in the community consistent with public health and public safety.
The Governor weighs numerous factors in his review of clemency applications, including an applicant’s self-development and conduct since the offense, whether the grant is consistent with public safety and in the interest of justice, and the impact of a grant on the community, including crime victims and survivors.
While in office, Governor Newsom has granted a total of 86 pardons, 92 commutations and 28 reprieves.
The Governor’s Office encourages victims, survivors, and witnesses to register with CDCR’s Office of Victims and Survivors Rights and Services to receive information about an incarcerated person’s status. For general Information about victim services, to learn about victim-offender dialogues, or to register or update a registration confidentially, please visit:
www.cdcr.ca.gov/Victim_Services/ or call 1-877-256-6877 (toll free).
Copies of the gubernatorial clemency certificates announced today can be found here:
Additional information on executive clemency can be found here:
Questions and comments may be sent to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Jeff Bezos has at least $180 Billion!
9 minutes 29 seconds
Resources for Resisting Federal Repression
Since June of 2020, activists have been subjected to an increasingly aggressive crackdown on protests by federal law enforcement. The federal response to the movement for Black Lives has included federal criminal charges for activists, door knocks by federal law enforcement agents, and increased use of federal troops to violently police protests.
The NLG National Office is releasing this resource page for activists who are resisting federal repression. It includes a link to our emergency hotline numbers, as well as our library of Know-Your-Rights materials, our recent federal repression webinar, and a list of some of our recommended resources for activists. We will continue to update this page.
If you are contacted by federal law enforcement you should exercise all of your rights. It is always advisable to speak to an attorney before responding to federal authorities.
State and Local Hotlines
If you have been contacted by the FBI or other federal law enforcement, in one of the following areas, you may be able to get help or information from one of these local NLG hotlines for:
- Portland, Oregon: (833) 680-1312
- San Francisco, California: (415) 285-1041 or email@example.com
- Seattle, Washington: (206) 658-7963
If you are located in an area with no hotline, you can call the following number:
Know Your Rights Materials
The NLG maintains a library of basic Know-Your-Rights guides.
- Know Your Rights During Covid-19
- You Have The Right To Remain Silent: A Know Your Rights Guide for Encounters with Law Enforcement
- Operation Backfire: For Environmental and Animal Rights Activists
WEBINAR: Federal Repression of Activists & Their Lawyers: Legal & Ethical Strategies to Defend Our Movements: presented by NLG-NYC and NLG National Office
We also recommend the following resources:
- Grand Juries: Slideshow
Movement for Black Lives Legal Resources
A day after a magnitude-7.2 earthquake killed an estimated 1,300 people in western Haiti, the country, already suffering from a dire lack of doctors, struggled to help the many wounded.
By Maria Abi-Habib, Published Aug. 15, 2021, Updated Aug. 16, 2021https://www.nytimes.com/2021/08/15/world/americas/haiti-earthquake.html?action=click&module=Top%20Stories&pgtype=Homepage
LES CAYES, Haiti — With broken bones and open wounds, the injured jammed into damaged hospitals or headed to the airport, hoping for mercy flights out. A handful of doctors toiled all night in makeshift triage wards. A retired senator used his seven-seat propeller plane to ferry the most urgent patients to emergency care in the capital.
A day after a magnitude-7.2 earthquake killed at least 1,300 people and injured thousands in western Haiti, the main airport of the city of Les Cayes was overwhelmed Sunday with people trying to evacuate their loved ones to Port-au-Prince, the capital, about 80 miles to the east.
There wasn’t much choice. With just a few dozen doctors available in a region that is home to one million people, the quake aftermath was turning increasingly dire.
“I’m the only surgeon over there,” said Dr. Edward Destine, an orthopedic surgeon, waving toward a temporary operating room of corrugated tin set up near the airport in Les Cayes. “I would like to operate on 10 people today, but I just don’t have the supplies,” he said, listing an urgent need for intravenous drips and even the most basic antibiotics.
The earthquake was the latest calamity to convulse Haiti, which is still living with the aftereffects of a 2010 quake that killed an estimated quarter-million people. Saturday’s quake came about five weeks after the Haitian president, Jovenel Moïse, was assassinated, leaving a leadership vacuum in a country already grappling with severe poverty and rampant gang violence.
The authorities in Haiti were scrambling to coordinate their response to the quake, mindful of the confusion that followed the one in 2010, when delays in distributing aid to hundreds of thousands of people worsened the death toll.
Prime Minister Ariel Henry promised Sunday at a news conference “to give a more appropriate response than the one we gave in 2010,” with a single operation center in Port-au-Prince to coordinate the aid efforts.
Dr. Paul Farmer, co-founder of the relief agency Partners in Health, which oversees several hospitals in Haiti, said the country’s ability to respond to an earthquake — with new emergency medical services and training programs — had greatly improved in the intervening years.
“The things we had at our disposal in 2010 versus now are night and day,” Dr. Farmer said.
But he acknowledged that Haiti still faced what he called “old problems” like bad roads, poor transportation and political volatility, fueled by gang violence, which could make managing the disaster all the more difficult.
Among the organizations extending help over the weekend were the United States Agency for International Development, which sent a search-and-rescue team, and the U.S. Coast Guard, which said it had deployed helicopters to provide humanitarian aid. The Pan American Health Organization sent experts to coordinate medical support, and UNICEF was distributing medical supplies to hospitals in the south and helping with water and sanitation.
The quake — more powerful than the one 11 years ago — triggered widespread landslides, with rocks and other debris blocking many roads, making it hard to reach the injured and needy. The road from Les Cayes, on the coast, to the Marceline district about 16 miles away in mountains overlooking the city, was cracked down the center, with boulders and tree branches blocking it.
Families in the area were sleeping in the open, their homes severely damaged or completely destroyed. Others were too nervous about the aftershocks ripping through the region to feel comfortable taking shelter under a roof.
In Marceline on Sunday, Honore Faiyther had just discovered his aunt’s body among the remaining pews of St. Agnes church when an aftershock jolted the town, rattling corrugated tin roofs that had collapsed and were strewn across the ground.
Mr. Faiyther closed his eyes and waited for the trembling to pass as he sat on a slab of concrete that had been part of the church wall. Just steps away, the body of his aunt, Ilda Pierre, lay on a metal grate, covered by a white sheet.
Ms. Pierre had been cleaning the church with a friend when the quake struck.
“My aunt has four children, and she’s very active in our community and volunteered in this church for five years,” Mr. Faiyther said. “Her husband is in denial. He cannot face that she is dead.”
The Rev. Jean Edy Desravines said he had been preparing a sermon for Sunday “to inspire parents to send their children back to school next month, to have them rejoin our community after such a tough year,” referring to the pandemic.
“Now there is no school to even send them to,” the priest said, explaining that the primary school his church runs had also been flattened.
“In a small town like this, the church is all we have,” he said.
The mayor of Marceline, Fenicile Marssius, dropping by to check on the priest, said her own home had been destroyed.
“We have had no assistance from the government,” Ms. Marssius said. “Maybe they have so much to do in the cities that they cannot reach us in these remote areas.”
In the town of Mazenod, outside Les Cayes, people watched as volunteers tried to extract two women from the rubble of a collapsed church guesthouse, the metallic crush of a bulldozer heaping the debris aside as men used their bare hands to move concrete slabs.
Nearly the entire complex of the Chapel of St. Eugene of Mazenod was destroyed, including the seminary and secondary schools the church runs.
“I don’t think there’s any hope,” said Melchirode Walter, 31, whose sister, Solange Walter, 26, was trapped. “We have been calling her name since yesterday and knocking on the concrete, but there is nothing.”
The Rev. Corneille Fortuna, who helps run the complex, said he narrowly survived when his residence on the property caved in. He was trapped by bricks blocking the entrance until friends were able to pull him out.
“Haiti is a country where every disaster is possible,” Father Fortuna said. “And there is never any help.”
Officials in Les Cayes estimated that only 30 doctors served the entire western region. They are now confronting the overwhelming prospect of treating thousands of grievous injuries from caved-in buildings.
All the main hospitals are damaged; doctors worked overnight to erect the temporary operating room near the airport in Les Cayes because local hospitals were in such bad condition.
At the General Hospital of Les Cayes, two surgeons operated on eight people with dwindling supplies on Sunday but were forced to turn most away.
After their procedures, the patients were wheeled in their beds in the baking Caribbean sun to the parking lot, which has become an outpatient center.
Dr. James Pierre, one of the surgeons, had just finished operating on a 5-year-old girl with abdominal trauma who had been crushed by a wall of her home as she played in the yard.
“We can only do simple surgeries here, we have nothing to work with,” Dr. Pierre said as he watched the girl’s chest labor with every breath under a blanket in the open air.
Medical files, stacked two feet high atop a metal table, lay adjacent to an open tap where the patients and their families and friends washed. Chickens ran in between the injured.
At the airport, Herve Foucand, a former senator from the region of Les Cayes, was using his small propeller plane over the weekend as a flying ambulance, taking the most needy to Haiti’s capital, a 45-minute flight. He said he had evacuated 50 people since Saturday. “The hospitals are broken inside,” he said.
“I have 30 people in serious condition waiting for me,” Mr. Foucand added. “But I only have seven seats.”
Palmera Claudius, 30, lay in the bed of a truck her relatives had hired to take her to the airport, the entire left part of her face swollen.
She had been home in Camp-Perrin, on the outskirts of Les Cayes, when she felt her whole house jolt. As she tried to run outside, a wall collapsed on her.
Like many others headed to the airport, she was hoping for a free flight to the capital, since her family could not afford a ticket.
Ms. Claudius said that she could not feel her legs and that the clinic in her town did not have the capacity to take an X-ray to determine what was wrong.
Taking a break from tending to the injured, Dr. Destine, the orthopedic surgeon, was trying to get his own father, also a surgeon, to the United States for treatment. His father suffered major head trauma from a fallen roof, he said.
Dr. Destine said he expected thousands of people to get potentially deadly infections unless proper supplies were delivered in time. The prospect of malnutrition, too, was likely to exacerbate the natural disaster for an already impoverished and hungry population, he said.
“We can’t even do lab tests,” he added.
Constant Méheut contributed reporting from Paris, and Alexandra E. Petri from New York.
By Margaret Renkl, August 16, 2021
Ms. Renkl is a contributing Opinion writer who covers flora, fauna, politics and culture in the American South.
“There’s the stench of sewage in a historically Black neighborhood in Louisville, Ky. The proposed grain elevator that would turn a historically Black community in Louisiana into an industrial complex. The natural gas facility in Virginia that would aid the extension of an oil pipeline through a historically Black community in Pittsylvania County. The creosote contamination in a historically Black neighborhood in Houston. The toxic coal ash moved from a predominately white community in Tennessee and dumped in a predominately Black community in Alabama.”https://www.nytimes.com/2021/08/16/opinion/environmental-racism-memphis-pipeline.html?action=click&module=Well&pgtype=Homepage§ion=Opinion
NASHVILLE — Something wonderful happened in Memphis last month: Community organizers in the city managed to stop a crude-oil pipeline from running beneath the historic neighborhood of Boxtown, as well as several other predominately Black communities along its projected 45-mile route.
The Byhalia Connection pipeline was to be a joint venture by Plains All American Pipeline and Valero Energy. As The Commercial Appeal in Memphis reported in March, Plains All America was already plagued by environmental problems, including a major oil spill on the California coast in 2015. Meanwhile, closer to Memphis, a leak of crude oil and benzene — a known carcinogen — occurred in 2020 near the place where the proposed pipeline was set to join an existing storage site.
Despite these companies’ terrible safety records, the proposed pipeline, which was first announced in December 2019, would have routed it directly beneath a fragile sand aquifer that supplies much of the drinking water in Shelby County, Tenn., where Memphis is.
Adding insult to injury were the strong-arm tactics that pipeline representatives employed against holdout neighbors in Boxtown, which was established by formerly enslaved people shortly after the Emancipation Proclamation. When residents refused to sell family land for the pittance they were offered, the companies sued for rights to the property under eminent domain, as reported by the nonprofit journalism sites MLK50 and Southerly. Pipeline representatives even told residents they were taking “the point of least resistance” in siting the pipeline.
That they were not successful is a testament to the power of community organizing. Led by the grass-roots group Memphis Community Against the Pipeline and backed by the nonprofits Protect Our Aquifer and the Tennessee chapter of the Sierra Club, the effort attracted the support of celebrities like former Vice President Al Gore, the actor Danny Glover and the singer-songwriter Justin Timberlake. Legal efforts against the pipeline were led by the Southern Environmental Law Center. Local and state elected officials stepped in to help, as well.
The defeat of the Byhalia Connection pipeline was a rare victory against the forces of a very specific brand of discrimination known as environmental racism. What happened in Memphis is just one of many similar stories playing out in the region.
There’s the stench of sewage in a historically Black neighborhood in Louisville, Ky. The proposed grain elevator that would turn a historically Black community in Louisiana into an industrial complex. The natural gas facility in Virginia that would aid the extension of an oil pipeline through a historically Black community in Pittsylvania County. The creosote contamination in a historically Black neighborhood in Houston. The toxic coal ash moved from a predominately white community in Tennessee and dumped in a predominately Black community in Alabama.
In every state in the South, people of color suffer more from the effects of pollution than white people do, but it’s important to note that this appalling reality does not end at the Mason-Dixon Line. Think of the undrinkable water in Flint, Mich., or the toxic refinery emissions in the Grays Ferry neighborhood of Philadelphia or the new natural gas pipeline in north Brooklyn being constructed directly beneath neighborhoods populated predominately by Black and Latino New Yorkers. Environmental racism is not a regional poison.
“Black Americans are exposed to more pollution from every type of source, including industry, agriculture, all manner of vehicles, construction, residential sources and even emissions from restaurants,” the Times climate reporters Hiroko Tabuchi and Nadja Popovich wrote in April about a new study in the journal Science Advances.
That report confirms earlier findings in study after study, including one in 2018 by the Trump administration’s Environmental Protection Agency. “Race, not poverty, is the strongest predictor of exposure to health-threatening particulate matter, especially for African Americans,” Robert Bullard, a professor of urban planning and environmental policy and administration of justice at Texas Southern University, told Inside Climate News in response to the 2018 report.
In some ways, it makes a kind of grim sense that the people most harmed by environmental hazards are the same people who are most harmed by society as a whole.
“Whenever there’s a question of where to site a polluting facility, there’s a calculus to that decision,” Chandra Taylor, the senior attorney and leader of the Southern Environmental Law Center’s Environmental Justice Initiative, told me in a phone interview last week. “Part of that calculus involves zoning decisions. Part of that calculus involves the price of land. And part of the calculus involves the political power of the communities that are near that property.”
Polluting industries count on the communities they target to be powerless, and they count on people in powerful communities to pay no attention. For wealthier communities, it tends to be an out-of-sight-out-of-mind situation, at least until it creeps close enough to become a not-in-my-backyard fight of their own.
Ignoring distant injustices is not merely an indifference to human suffering; it also reflects a failure to understand how environmental damage really works. Polluted air doesn’t park itself over low-wealth communities. Polluted water doesn’t stay put in Black or brown neighborhoods. As Ms. Taylor points out, “Anything that causes a devastating harm to people of color is eventually going to happen to everyone.”
Efforts to disenfranchise people of color have been going on in the South since Reconstruction. During Jim Crow, disenfranchisement took the form of directly denying the vote. Today, it’s more likely to look like burdensome barriers to voting — requiring photo IDs but shuttering the local Department of Motor Vehicles office, closing polling places and limiting voting hours — or gerrymandering political districts in order to dilute the voting power of communities of color.
But political power isn’t a static thing. What happened in Memphis this year is an example of how historically powerless people can work together to interrupt a pattern of environmental racism that has been in place for more than a century and a half. It’s also an example of why everyone else should care.
“We are the only thing here,” said a cleric in Les Cayes, one of the cities worst hit by the quake. In some towns, not a church was left standing.
“Foreign interference from the United States, which invaded and supported political coups and dictatorships, deepened the despair.”
By Maria Abi-Habib and Andre Paultre, Published Aug. 16, 2021, Updated Aug. 17, 2021https://www.nytimes.com/2021/08/16/world/americas/haiti-earthquake-aid-grace.html?action=click&module=Top%20Stories&pgtype=Homepage
Joseph Jean Fetal, right, using a sledgehammer to break concrete slabs in an attempt to retrieve important documents from a damaged church in Les Cayes on Sunday. Credit...Valerie Baeriswyl for The New York Times
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — The houses collapsed, the hospitals were damaged, the roads buckled or turned impassable. But it was the earthquake’s destruction of churches across Haiti’s southern peninsula that may prove the biggest gut punch to the roughly 1.5 million people affected.
For many Haitians, their only source of aid throughout their lives, in the absence of strong government institutions, has been the church, a part of Haiti’s landscape since the era of European colonialism and slavery.
Many churches lay in ruins after the 7.2 magnitude earthquake on Saturday morning, which wrecked thousands of buildings and left entire towns and at least one city without a church left standing. On Monday, as heavy rains threatened floods and mudslides in the region, civil defense officials raised the death toll to more than 1,400 and said nearly 7,000 people had been injured.
In the city of Les Cayes, which was particularly devastated by the quake, clerics despaired even as they sought to project hope and resolve to rebuild.
“We are the only thing here,” said the Rev. Yves Joel Jacqueline, 44, who works at cathedral in Les Cayes with Haiti’s cardinal, Bishop Chibly Langlois, who was hurt in the quake. “There is no support from the government.”
The heavy concrete rooftops and domes of churches across the southern peninsula are now caved in, tabernacles crooked or buried under rubble, walls marbled with deep cracks.
Every church seen by reporters from The New York Times in a 15-mile drive in and around Les Cayes on Sunday was completely destroyed or severely damaged. The cathedral in the city of Jeremie, an architectural landmark built more than a century ago, was left in ruins.
The quake could not have come at a worse time for Haiti. The Caribbean nation is still traumatized over the unsolved July 7 assassination of President Jovenel Moïse and is still recovering from the calamitous quake that destroyed much of the Port-au-Prince area in 2010, which destroyed the capital’s cathedral, its ruins now an ominous feature in the capital’s skyline.
Severe poverty, systematic gang violence, the pandemic and a history of dysfunctional government have only worsened the struggles of Haiti’s 11 million people.
Those struggles have reinforced the importance of the church as a source of aid, education and stability for much of the country, which has no other social safety net. French slave owners made Catholicism Haiti’s official religion, but it endured even after the slave revolt and Haitian independence, a faith Haitians are deeply bound to.
“Our church is destroyed and many churches in and around Les Cayes are destroyed, but we have faith and we know that as long as people are still here, we can build back our community,” said Father Jacqueline.
It is hard to overstate the influence of Christianity on Hispaniola, the island split by Haiti in the west and the Dominican Republic in the east. Roman Catholicism played a pivotal role because of the European missionaries who brought it with them in the 1500s.
The Dioceses of Santo Domingo and Concepcion de la Vega were founded on Hispaniola in 1511, less than two decades after the colony of Santo Domingo was established by the Spanish. Catholicism became the official religion of Haiti from 1697 after the French took over the Western half of the island, turning it into a slave colony. It remained the official religion until 1985.
But Haiti, as the world’s first Black independent nation, took Catholic rituals and melded them with local customs, creating a faith unique to the nation that many find pride in.
Churches became a major feature of communities across the country, places to gather, seek refuge and get food and education. These needs only intensified as the country — once the wealthiest in the Caribbean — slipped into poverty over the last 100 years. Foreign interference from the United States, which invaded and supported political coups and dictatorships, deepened the despair.
Religious charities are playing a prominent role in the mobilization of help for the quake victims. Catholic Relief Services, for example, said Sunday it had dispatched teams to Les Cayes and the surrounding area to provide clean water, sanitation, shelter and emergency supplies. Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Miami, a major community of the Haitian diaspora, said it was accepting donations for quake relief.
But the rollout of aid has been slow, partly reflecting the Haitian government’s own inabilities to oversee and coordinate it, an echo of the problems following the 2010 quake. Prime Minister Ariel Henry of Haiti promised a “tenfold” increase in the aid effort in a Twitter posting on Monday, but he has little power to make that happen.
Mr. Henry’s public promise also was belied by his private frustration about the sluggish response so far, expressed to the American ambassador, Michele J. Sison, and conveyed in an internal State Department update shared with The New York Times.
Underscoring how cash-strapped and helpless his own government is in the face of the disaster, Mr. Henry has been surveying the damage using a plane lent to him by the Dominican Republic, with that nation’s name plastered on the side of the aircraft.
The homes of as many as 1.5 million Haitians across the southern peninsula may be structurally damaged, according to another internal United States government assessment.
The need to expedite help intensified as Tropical Depression Grace threatened Haiti and other Caribbean countries. The storm, which made landfall in Haiti on Monday, could dump enough heavy rain to cause mudslides and flooding in the quake zone, where hundreds of thousands of survivors are sleeping in the open.
Officials interviewed in and around Les Cayes worried that the storm could bring disease and hunger, as the strong gusts of wind and rainfall further complicate and delay relief efforts.
In an interview on Sunday, Father Jacqueline stood atop the rubble of his church and leaned on a gnarled set of red and white radio towers that collapsed at the building’s entrance, printouts of a past Christmas program strewn across the ground.
The priest had shared the residence with Haiti’s cardinal. Both men escaped the building as they were having breakfast, but a disabled priest who was eating with them and two women who tended to the residence were killed.
“The church has suffered from the situation in Haiti, from the kidnapping, the uncertainty and then the coronavirus,” said Father Jacqueline, referring to the widespread gang violence across Haiti that has not spared religious institutions, with thugs kidnapping priests and nuns for ransom.
A crew of men used their hands and sledgehammers to extract what they could from his destroyed residence, including sensitive church documents, while trying to keep at bay men on the street who wanted to take what they could, anything that remained intact from the destruction.
The mayor of Les Cayes, Marie Michelle Sylvie Rameau, said in an interview that there was a lack of potable water across the city and people were digging wells to quench their thirst with water that may be contaminated and spread disease.
Aid efforts on Monday were complicated by road blocks on a main thoroughfare linking the capital to the southern peninsula, Ms. Rameau added. Although the gangs that control that road declared a humanitarian truce over the weekend, the local population — unaffected by the quake but still desperately poor — erected checkpoints to loot convoys of aid, cutting off a vital transportation line for relief agencies.
Local officials fear that as the population grows more desperate, they will begin to seize what they can, with not even the church spared.
The only government help his church has received so far, Father Jacqueline added, was taking away the body of his colleague, the dead priest.
Reporting was contributed by Harold Isaac from Les Cayes, Milo Milfort from Port-au-Prince and Rick Gladstone from New York.
The deluge could complicate the relief efforts that followed a 7.2-magnitude temblor that devastated the southwest of the country on Saturday.
By Constant Méheut, Aug. 17, 2021https://www.nytimes.com/2021/08/17/world/americas/haiti-hurricane-storm.html?action=click&module=Top%20Stories&pgtype=Homepage
After Tropical Storm Grace made its way across Haiti, which was already reeling from a devastating earthquake, videos circulating on social networks on Tuesday showed heavy rains pummeling towns and villages, bringing the risk of flash floods and landslides.
In one video, a man could be seen making his way through muddy water that had flooded a street up to his waist on Monday, when the storm struck. Another video showed floodwaters rushing across a street and inundating nearby homes.
“It’s totally turned into a river,” a man is heard saying in the video, which appeared to have been shot in the city of Jacmel, on Haiti’s southern coast.
Heavy rains also pelted people who had huddled in fields, many of them forced to leave homes damaged in the 7.2-magnitude earthquake, and others who had sought safety outdoors because of a fear of aftershocks that could cause further collapses.
One video posted on Monday showed dozens of people trying to take shelter under plastic tarpaulins provided by the U.S. Agency for International Development, which has sent help to Haiti, as they were hit by gusts of wind that had blown down their campsite. Earlier in the day, chaotic scenes occurred near overcrowded shelters as dozens of people jostled to find a place to stay before the storm hit the country, according to images from the French public news broadcaster France 24.
In a message posted on Twitter on Monday night, the civil protection agency of Haiti said that heavy rainfall in the southern region was making the situation for displaced people even more challenging and called on residents whose homes had not been affected to help shelter them.
As of Tuesday morning, Grace, which hit Haiti as a tropical depression on Monday night but was later upgraded to a tropical storm, had moved away from Haiti’s shores and was nearing Jamaica, according to the National Hurricane Center.
Coming after the earthquake on Saturday, the tempest has compounded the problems already facing the impoverished nation, which was still in the throes of a political crisis prompted by the assassination of its president, Jovenel Moïse, last month.
Investigations into the killing of Mr. Moïse — by assailants who stormed his residence near the capital, Port-au-Prince — have stalled. The newly installed government is vulnerable, the result of a fragile compromise between politicians who jockeyed for power for days after the killing.
As Grace made landfall in Haiti, the authorities were still rushing to bring aid to the country’s southwest, which was devastated in the deadly earthquake just two days earlier.
The quake has killed more than 1,400 people and injured nearly 7,000 others — a toll that is expected to rise. UNICEF estimated on Tuesday that about 1.2 million people, including 540,000 children, had been affected by the earthquake.
Thousands of homes have been destroyed, as well as dozens of schools, churches and health centers, according to reports by local authorities.
Memories of the crippling 2010 earthquake — and the shambolic humanitarian response that followed — are still vivid in the minds of Haitians, and the government has promised a more effective reaction this time. But the shipping of aid to the southwest has been hampered by logistical issues and medical facilities are lacking in that part of the country.
Prime Minister Ariel Henry said on Sunday that all aid received by the country would be handled by a single operations center in Port-au-Prince to avoid having humanitarian assistance arrive “in disorder,” as it often did in 2010, leaving many people excluded from rescue efforts.
In the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake, the country earned the nickname “The Republic of NGOs” after nongovernmental organizations became the main channel for humanitarian assistance, essentially filling the void left by weak government institutions.
Several countries, like Mexico, have flown aid to Haiti in recent days and the United States has sent a search-and-rescue team. On Tuesday, the European Union announced that it was allocating 3 million euros, about $3.5 million, in humanitarian funding to help affected communities.
“The E.U. is quickly mobilizing support to this already extremely fragile country, where hurricanes and heavy rainfalls aggravate the dire situation even more,” Janez Lenarcic, the bloc’s commissioner for crisis management, said in a statement.
Paul Farmer, a physician and co-founder of the relief agency Partners in Health, which oversees several hospitals in Haiti, said that the country had established new emergency medical services in the intervening years, largely improving its ability to respond to an earthquake.
“This time around,” he said, “the idea is: How can we coordinate the response so that it doesn’t become a burden for the Haitians?”
By Katharine Hayhoe and Friederike Otto, August 17,2021
Dr. Hayhoe, an atmospheric scientist, is the chief scientist The Nature Conservancy. Dr. Otto is the associate director of the Environmental Change Institute at the University of Oxford and a co-investigator for World Weather Attribution, which assesses the human influence on extreme weather.https://www.nytimes.com/2021/08/17/opinion/extreme-weather-climate-change.html?action=click&module=Well&pgtype=Homepage§ion=Opinion
Hotter, faster, stronger: That isn’t a tagline for the next blockbuster superhero movie. This is what climate change is doing to many extreme weather events. As the planet warms, heat waves are getting hotter, wildfires are moving faster and burning larger areas, and storms and floods are becoming stronger.
These effects are no longer a future or distant concern: They are affecting us — all of us — here and now. The last week of July, in Ontario, where one of us, Dr. Hayhoe, was visiting family, the sun was orange and hazy, and smoke from the wildfires that blazed across Canada hung in the air. The week before, Dr. Otto anxiously checked in with family in Rhineland-Palatinate, the region in western Germany where heavy rainfall caused floods that took more than 150 lives.
We’re both climate scientists, so when a disaster happens, we’re often asked: Is this climate change or just bad weather?
While it is a natural human inclination to want to categorize things in simple terms, how climate change affects our weather is not an either/or question. We are already living in a world that is two degrees Fahrenheit warmer than it was at the outset of the Industrial Revolution. That means that every weather event is already superimposed over the background of a changed climate.
The more precise question to ask is this: Did climate change alter the severity, frequency or duration of this event? Increasingly, the answer is a resounding yes. And thanks to cutting-edge science, we’re starting to be able to put some numbers on it, too. This type of research is called “attribution.”
How can science tease out the exact contribution of human-caused climate change to a given event without a separate, otherwise identical, but human-free earth to compare it to? The first step is to characterize the event using observations: how long and hot was the heat wave, or how much rain fell during the storm, or how strong was the hurricane.
Then, we turn to our climate models. These are sophisticated physics-based simulations of the atmosphere, ocean and land surface that are run on powerful supercomputers. Because we know very well the amount of greenhouse gases humans have added to the atmosphere, we can remove the human influence from climate models’ atmospheres to create a world without climate change. Using the models, we can then identify how strong, how long, how big, and how likely the same event would be in that imaginary world.
The effect of climate change is the difference between what happens in a world without human influence and what happened in the real world. When scientists find that, say, what is now a one in a 100 years event in the real world would have occurred only once every 200 years without climate change, this doubled risk can be attributed to climate change.
Attribution matters because our human brains prioritize immediacy. We are wired to feel more concerned about a small leak in our roof than we are about a few degrees rise in ocean temperature 50 or 500 miles away. But when your home is in Houston, an increase of a few degrees in ocean surface temperature turns a distant problem into an immediate catastrophe, as when rain from a storm like Hurricane Harvey deluges your home for days upon days.
That storm hit Houston in August 2017. It wasn’t until December of that year, though, that the first attribution study was published showing that climate change made a storm with as much rainfall as Hurricane Harvey three times more likely. It took until 2020 for scientists to calculate that three-quarters of the tens of billions in economic damage suffered during the storm stem from the additional rainfall amounts attributed to human-caused climate change. This is a stunning number, but by then, the news cycle had long since moved on.
This is why new rapid attribution analyses are so important. Take the heat wave this summer in the Pacific Northwest and British Columbia, which resulted in an estimated hundreds of heat-related deaths, ruined crops and wildfire outbreaks. The town of Lytton, British Columbia, broke the temperature record for Canada three days in a row. On the fourth day Lytton was all but destroyed by wildfire. These events were so extreme that they were very difficult to imagine, even for climate scientists like us, just two months ago.
Dr. Otto was part of an international team of researchers organized by the World Weather Attribution initiative who conducted a rapid analysis of the event. They found that human-induced global warming made the heat wave 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit hotter and at least 150 times more likely to occur. The report garnered headlines in part because it was released just nine days after the heat wave occurred, so it was still news.
The attribution team is working on its next report, analyzing the heavy rain and flooding in Germany and Belgium in July. We won’t have exact numbers until the analysis is completed this month, but we do know from basic physics that in a warmer atmosphere, the chance of heavy rainfall is higher. The just published report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has shown this very clearly.
As extreme weather increasingly becomes the new norm, this is how rapid analysis and attribution science can help us more clearly and succinctly label and calculate the ways climate change multiplies the threat of extreme weather and puts us all at risk. But we don’t need to analyze any more events to know we need to act, and quickly.
The evidence and the data is already clear: The faster we cut our emissions, the better off we’ll all be.
By Viet Thanh Nguyen, August 19, 2021
Mr. Nguyen is the author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel “The Sympathizer” and its sequel, “The Committed.” He is a professor of English, American studies and comparative literature at the University of Southern California.https://www.nytimes.com/2021/08/19/opinion/afghanistan-vietnam-war-refugees.html
People struggled to cross the boundary wall of Hamid Karzai International Airport to flee the country after the Taliban took control of Kabul, Afghanistan. Credit...EPA, via Shutterstock
I was 4 years old when Saigon fell, so I do not remember any of it. I count myself lucky, since many Vietnamese who survived the end of that war were greatly traumatized by it. The collapse of the American-backed Southern regime began in my Central Highlands hometown, Ban Me Thuot, in March 1975. In less than two months, all of South Vietnam capitulated to the North Vietnamese. Soldiers fled in chaotic retreat among civilians. My mother, brother and I were among them. We left behind my adopted sister. After walking nearly 200 kilometers to escape the advancing North Vietnamese army, the three of us made it to the seaside city of Nha Trang, where we managed to find a boat to take us to Saigon where my father was.
We were lucky; many others weren’t. My brother remembers dead Southern paratroopers hanging from trees. In Nha Trang, some people fell to their deaths in the sea, trying to clamber onto boats. In Da Nang, desperate soldiers crammed into the luggage compartments of a plane, while the ones left behind threw grenades and fired at the plane.
Images of bodies falling, of people running desperately, are now with us again, from Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul. Comparisons to Vietnam began early in America’s misadventure in Afghanistan: It was classic mission creep, a quagmire, another forever war. The pessimism was warranted. Two decades, billions of dollars and tens of thousands of deaths later, Taliban forces are now in Kabul, having secured control of the country with dizzying speed. As much as some American leaders resist it, the analogy presents itself again, with the fall of Saigon and resulting catastrophe foreshadowing the possible fate of tens of thousands of Afghans. It is not something the Biden administration is interested in hearing. “This is not Saigon,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said over the weekend.
True, the Taliban are not the People’s Army of Vietnam, and the American evacuation of Saigon, chaotic as it was, was better planned than the American endgame for Kabul. But the Saigon analogy is important because the urgency and the human disaster are similar, and the role that the United States and other nations must play to shape those fates of Afghans. It was therefore disappointing to hear President Biden on Monday defend his Afghanistan policy by focusing on two alternatives — stay and fight or withdraw — while laying the blame primarily at the feet of the Afghan government and army. Blaming Afghans obscures a history of American miscalculation starting with President George W. Bush, and allows Mr. Biden to treat the evacuation of Afghan allies as an afterthought rather than a priority.
For these civilians, the war hasn’t ended, and won’t end for many years. Their future — and Mr. Biden’s role in determining whether it’s one of resettlement and new beginnings or one of fear and misery — is what will determine whether America can still claim it will always stand by its allies.
As a scholar of memory and a novelist who has written about the Vietnam War, I have often thought of 1975 and its consequences. I grew up in a Vietnamese refugee community so deeply shaped by the fall of Saigon that they call that month Black April, which they commemorate every year. So when I read this account by an anonymous Afghan journalist in recently captured Taliban territory, it resonated completely with all the stories I have heard from Vietnamese refugees: “My whole life has been obliterated in just a few days. I am so scared and I don’t know what will happen to me. Will I ever go home? Will I see my parents again? Where will I go? The highway is blocked in both directions. How will I survive?”
Her questions are especially haunting as images of Afghans trying to escape for their lives, crowding Kabul’s airport, fill the airwaves. Her questions were probably similar to ones my parents and many other Vietnamese refugees asked of themselves.
Again, we were the lucky ones: My family tried to flee by air but could not make it to Saigon’s airport. We tried the U.S. Embassy and could not get past the enormous crowd. Finally, we found a barge at the dock, left Saigon and eventually made it to the United States, where we restarted our lives. We were civilians, but this was a war story.
Americans like to imagine war stories featuring their heroic soldiers, sailors and pilots. The reality is that refugee stories are also war stories. Yet despite a growing sense of antiwar sentiment in the country, the United States has found it hard to give up its habits of war, partly because we are a military-industrial complex built for war, and partly because even antiwar stories featuring the military still center on the seductive glamour of firepower, hardware, heroism and masculinity. Anthony Swofford, a veteran of Operation Desert Storm, recalls in his memoir, “Jarhead,” how he and his fellow Marines experienced an almost sexual ecstasy in watching the battle scenes from the movie “Apocalypse Now,” even the ones depicting the killing of American soldiers.
There is neither power nor glory in the stories of civilians killed or maimed or forced to flee or orphaned by war. It is in civilian experiences, similar to what many Afghans are now going through, that we truly find war stories. We keep hearing that Americans are suffering from war fatigue — but how many stories do we read or hear or see about American soldiers at war compared to stories of refugees created by wars led by the United States? Civilian war stories disturb our mind-set of conducting perpetual warfare as an unquestioned American privilege.
Americans also like to think that wars end when they are declared to end. But the aftereffects of war continue for years. In Vietnam, the victorious Vietnamese imprisoned untold numbers of South Vietnamese soldiers, politicians, priests, sex workers and other people in re-education camps, where many died of illness, starvation and overwork. Others were executed. Prison sentences ran from months to more than a decade.
Many of those prisoners probably felt like the Afghan journalist describing her bewilderment at being turned into a refugee and at the mercy of the Taliban: “I remember screaming and crying, women and children around me were running in every direction. It felt like we were all stuck in a boat and there was a big storm around us.” She is speaking metaphorically, but in the decades after the fall of Saigon, nearly a million Vietnamese fled by sea. Tens of thousands perished during the desperate attempts. The truly lucky ones made it to refugee camps and then to host countries. The less lucky ones lingered in those refugee camps for years and even decades. They are part of the human toll that continued to grow for years after the official end of the war. This is what the Afghan people face, with the certainty that as the Taliban seize Kabul, there will be potentially terrible recriminations for those who allied with the Americans.
One hoped that as we saw the increasingly desperate pleas of Afghans over the weekend that the comparison to the fall of Saigon would provoke greater urgency on the part of the Biden administration to do its duty and help their Afghan allies escape the country.
Yet, the danger of the Saigon analogy is that it could also simply allow Americans to view the tragedy in Afghanistan as many viewed the end of the southern Vietnamese regime — as a spectacle, a singular moment in history.
In reality, the fall of Saigon ushered in many more years of fear and desperation for the defeated. With Afghanistan, Mr. Biden committed to evacuating an unspecified number of vulnerable Afghans to safety. And perhaps in response to anti-immigrant sentiment in the country, the United States is also trying to find homes for many Afghan refugees in other countries. This is not enough. “The people of Afghanistan do not deserve this,” the novelist Khaled Hosseini said on Twitter. “The United States has a moral obligation. Admit as many Afghan refugees as possible.”
History is happening again, and again as tragedy and farce. The wars in Vietnam and Afghanistan happened as a result of American hubris, and in both cases Americans mostly focused on the political costs of war for them. But in each case, the Vietnamese (and Laotians, Cambodians and Hmong) and then the Afghans have paid the much greater toll in human suffering. In April 1975, the United States recognized its moral responsibility and evacuated about 130,000 Vietnamese people, and then accepted hundreds of thousands more from Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia in subsequent decades. This is what must happen now, and anything short of such a vision of responsibility and hospitality will compound the American failure in Afghanistan.
Joe Biden, a senator in 1975, surely remembers that the majority of Americans did not want to accept Southeast Asian refugees. Nevertheless, Congress did the right thing, and the subsequent flourishing of Southeast Asian American communities throughout the United States has shown the wisdom of that moral decision. While the politics of these two moments in America’s flawed wars differ, the morality does not. Tens of thousands of Afghans believed in the American promise of ushering in freedom, democracy and an open, tolerant society. And now, they’re stuck. For Afghans, the war hasn’t ended simply because we, the United States, declared it to be over.
The nightmare doesn’t end for Afghans after the last American leaves. Our obligation to help Afghans in mortal danger extends beyond the present moment and well into the years ahead. The United States now must take the lead in evacuating and welcoming tens of thousands of its Afghan allies. Otherwise the words of another young Afghan woman contemplating the future of her country will be painfully true: “We don’t count because we were born in Afghanistan … No one cares about us. We’ll die slowly in history.”
By Jay Caspian Kang, August 19, 2021https://www.nytimes.com/2021/08/19/opinion/housing-crisis-hotels.html
In the housing wars, two things seem fairly certain.
We, especially those of us who live in California, are in an escalating crisis of unaffordability and homelessness.
Nobody really knows what can be done.
The second point, of course, is quite different from “nobody knows what to do.” Each side of the housing debate has a raft of prescriptions, whether mass public housing, upzoning, the unfettered building of market-rate apartments, or the construction of thousands of tiny structures for the unhoused. Everyone knows exactly what he or she would do if community boards, historical societies, small-minded local politicians or capitalism weren’t in the way.
A telling example of the “what can we do” phenomenon can be found in Berkeley, Calif., where I live. The city has received quite a bit of positive press in recent months for its resolution to end single-family zoning. The stated reason behind the change: to right a historical wrong. In 1916, Berkeley became the first city in the nation to enact single-family zoning as a way for families in the wealthy Elmwood neighborhood to stop the construction of multifamily units that might bring in a poorer class of renters. Despite its progressive reputation, the city has been highly racially segregated throughout its history, with entire neighborhoods that were drawn up with the express purpose of excluding Black and Asian residents. In the early 1960s, the Berkeley City Council passed anti-segregation laws that criminalized housing discrimination. Those laws were quickly challenged by petition and soundly defeated at the polls by white residents who, in addition to showing their displeasure by ballot, burned a cross on the lawn of a progressive mayoral candidate.
Recent history, which has seen a steep increase in rents and housing costs, has simply replaced exclusion with expulsion. In 1970, roughly 25 percent of the city’s population was Black. That number had fallen to roughly 8 percent by 2019. The zoning resolution was supposed to address that history and usher in a more equitable, affordable city. But it should be noted that Berkeley simply voted on a resolution to end single-family zoning. Actual changes in zoning will require further campaigning and votes and will almost certainly be met with heightened resistance. And even its most ardent proponents in the City Council have struck a cautionary tone. “It’s certainly not going to happen overnight,” Councilwoman Lori Droste told Berkeleyside. She also spoke of the bill in somewhat abstract terms, calling it “symbolic in stating we want to address systemic racism.” Councilman Ben Bartlett admitted the change would not create an “explosion in housing” but, like Droste, said that “we cannot ignore that from the outset, zoning’s sole purpose was to segregate by race, to the detriment of people of color.”
In March the city announced plans to build 9,000 units of housing (an explanation of those plans can be found here), but there were precious few details on where these would be. Outside of its symbolic importance, the purpose of resolving to strike down single-family zoning was, presumably, to allow for more density. Would these new units go in the Berkeley Hills, with its scant access to public transportation, high land values and perennial fire risk? Would they go in the wealthy Elmwood and Claremont sections, where houses run upward of $4 million? Or would they all go in South and West Berkeley, traditionally Black neighborhoods, where land is cheaper and closer to mass transit? If it went in West Berkeley, would these new units simply swap out lower-income people who live in rent-controlled homes for tech workers and upper-middle-class professionals? And how does zoning, which has been by far the most visible political fight in Berkeley, address the homeless encampments that have sprung up all around the city?
The City Council is well aware of these concerns. For the foreseeable future, it will travel a rocky path from the resolution to strike down a historically racist statute to the building of housing that will produce a more affordable city. Actually doing something will certainly prove challenging and noteworthy; in the housing debates, ideas usually stay ideas because nobody has the capacity to protect a renter from eviction or put a shovel in the ground.
As part of my newsletter, I will periodically revisit the housing question because it seems to encapsulate so much of what I hope to write about: class, race, cities and how people with big ideas run into limited imagination, institutional barriers and political unwillingness to change.
Today’s entry is an interview with Ananya Roy, a professor of urban planning, social welfare and geography at U.C.L.A., where she also directs the Institute on Inequality and Democracy. In recent years, she and the institute have turned their focus to housing and homelessness. Their work, which is deeply tied to tenant and anti-gentrification activists, can be found here. She has been one of the most pointed and consistent critics of pure market-based housing advocacy, also known as YIMBY (yes in my backyard), which she sometimes calls the “all housing matters” movement.
This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.
What effect will the end of the eviction moratorium have on the housing crisis? And did President Biden and the C.D.C.’s extension of it ward off any of what’s to come?
The eviction moratorium has been important relief for rent-burdened and rent-indebted tenants. As our research in Los Angeles shows, many of these tenant communities are those that have been hardest hit b the pandemic, with disproportionate and systematic exposure to job loss and coronavirus infection, as well as exclusion from relief funds. In this sense, the moratorium has been a safety net of sorts, and its disappearance will be sure to expand and expedite evictions. Let’s also be clear that it’s the hard work of housing justice movements and tenant unions that ensured the temporary relief of the eviction moratorium. And it is the tenacity of leaders such as Representative Cori Bush who have roots in such movements that ensured its extension.
The moratorium, though, is not a cure for housing insecurity. In this sense, it is a postponement of crisis rather than a solution. What is immediately needed is full rental debt cancellation, and what is ultimately needed is public investment in housing for working-class communities. While there are various forms of rent relief programs afoot, most of them are actually landlord bailout programs, and very few seem to be actually reaching tenants in need. This then sets the stage for mass evictions, something that we have been sounding the alarm on since last summer and that is sure to precipitate mass displacement and homelessness.
What has been at hand has been a postponement of evictions. What is needed is an end to evictions, whether that end comes through landmark legal action that exposes the unfair process of eviction or through the social recognition that keeping people in their homes is smart and necessary policy.
Cities across the country are seeing homeless encampments pop up at a scale that alarms their residents. Do you think we’re reaching a crisis point where housing becomes an issue that spills beyond activists, wonks and academics? Are we about to see some reckoning or another?
There are these haunting scenes from the Great Depression of what came to be called Hooverville squatter camps, including one right in Central Park, which should seem unimaginable to us today. Well, it’s all around us again.
In the research we’ve been doing at the institute, we started building out scenarios once the pandemic hit. They are still quite modest because we still have a so-called eviction moratorium. The full economic impact of the pandemic, combined with the inequality that already existed, has not played out. It’s going to play out over the next three, four, five years. The housing crisis to come will be worse than the Great Depression
How will that happen? What do the next five years look like for housing?
I think there’s going to be three dimensions to it.
One is going to be mass evictions. They’re not necessarily going to happen on one single day. But our estimates have been that in Los Angeles County alone, thousands of households will become homeless as the eviction crisis plays out. It should be said that there has been money flowing into giving landlords relief, but tenants were already rent-burdened before the pandemic. One number that really sticks with me was that in 2018, 600,000 people in Los Angeles were paying 90 percent of their income in rent. That was when people were doing well, when they had a safety net and full employment. So imagine what happens now.
Second, we already have a massive homelessness crisis. And what we have to address that is a system that just shuffles people through shelter and temporary housing. This makes sure that the unhoused stay permanently unhoused. Other than that, the current approaches to homelessness are criminalization and policing. All that is bloody expensive. It doesn’t work.
Here’s the third thing: A few years after the height of the Great Recession of 2008, corporate entities went on a buying spree of distressed properties. The bulk were Wall Street firms, Blackstone being the most notorious. But there were also real estate empires hiding behind L.L.C.s. A similar acquisition of distressed property will happen again in the Black and brown neighborhoods of our cities, wiping out the sort of accessible housing that we have and once again dramatically shifting real estate power to the wealthy.
Problems like rent prices outpacing wages seem to require long-horizon solutions, some of which seem almost revolutionary at this point. But if we are truly in an emergency, what do you think would work in the shorter term?
I have been writing a set of ideas called emergency urbanism. This is a moment of great crisis. But it’s also a moment to do things we would not otherwise do. It turns out that local politicians — mayors, for example — have the authority to commandeer property for the protection of life. Well, the mayor of Los Angeles, the mayor of San Francisco all have had the power to come into your hotels and turn them into housing.
There is also the possibility for a more immediate, quick mass expansion of low-income housing by buying distressed properties, vacant properties, all of the stuff that Blackstone is already buying up. The real estate industry is already doing its webinars on how to do something similar. They’ve created an algorithm for distressed hotels and motels. Why is the government not doing the same thing?
We have shown that buying and converting distressed property into housing comes at a much lower price point than building new housing. So in Vancouver, there’s now a huge effort pushed by tenant movements, where the city government has bought up privately owned single resident occupancy hotels and is committed to converting them all to social housing. We could do the same thing here. That seems like a no-brainer.
Your institute has written about the use of eminent domain to create more housing. In Los Angeles, specifically, eminent domain has a pretty disturbing history tied to mass displacements of Latino Angelenos to build Dodger Stadium. I find it hard to believe that people will support an eminent domain program, because of that history but also because it will feel like government overreach. How do you go about convincing people that it’s OK and that the government won’t just use that power to build a stadium?
I think we’ve only seen certain uses of eminent domain, but we’ve been doing a lot of work on how local authorities like municipalities can use eminent domain, for example, to purchase underwater mortgages.
The idea behind this is a public stake in what seems to be private property. So, for example, when we talked to people in downtown Los Angeles, so many of the hotels down there said, “No, no, no, no, we don’t want the homeless people in our buildings ever.” And I think that’s the option that has to be exercised in all sorts of creative ways. Well, they are private property, yes, but they also received millions and millions of dollars in public subsidies. That’s what it means to have a public stake in private property, and that option needs to be exercised in creative ways.
How do you make that a political reality? It’s hard to imagine Eric Garcetti, the mayor of Los Angeles, for example, suddenly using eminent domain to build public housing. What has to happen politically to make this a reality? It feels we are talking about what would be a small revolution in attitudes and leadership.
It has to start with organizing. We have several housing movements, like Moms 4 Housing in Oakland and Reclaiming Our Homes in Los Angeles, that have made the case for reclaiming vacant property and for using tools such as eminent domain in order to keep tenants in their home. A crucial piece of their demands is community control over land and housing. They have built collective power in order to put political pressure on elected officials, and most important, they are building a new common sense about the public stake in property and about housing as a public good.
So much of the housing debate right now seems to be about eliminating single-family zoning. I understand the importance of this, but it sometimes feels as if it’s being sold as a panacea to solve housing inequality. I live in Berkeley. There’s been a lot of credit given to the city’s commitment for eliminating single-family zoning, which absolutely has a racist, exclusionary history in the city. But in reality, if you look at a map and see the wealthy areas that are single-family zoned, there’s almost zero chance that any significant amount of housing is going to be built there.
I get the ways in which zoning has been a key instrument of segregation and exclusion. But I wish the solution to inequitable housing was as simple as doing away with that instrument. I don’t think that’s going to work.
I keep thinking about the subprime crisis and also what happened in the late’70s. The idea was to see investment flow into neighborhoods that had been deprived of investments. And it did flow, except on terms that simply created a new form of segregation and predation. So I feel that these issues can’t be addressed until and unless we center the communities that are the most impacted, until we center tenants from working-class communities of color. Not all housing matters in the same way. So I feel very strongly that those who are most impacted by the housing crisis have to be at the center of this and any housing policy has to be judged, first and foremost, by the impact that will have on those communities.
Unless we take explicit accounts of how these racialized and class logics work, we run the risk of reinforcing those patterns of segregation.
I was reading about how the mayor of Paris is trying to get a quarter of its population housed in public housing. And the reason it was interesting to me was that I think Americans have a hard time imagining some cities being analogous to cities in the United States. So Singapore, for example, is hard for Americans to imagine as a possible reality. Roughly 80 percent of the population of Singapore lives in public housing managed by the government. Hong Kong is also hard. Almost half the population of Hong Kong lives in public housing.
There are all sorts of racialized, political and geographic reasons it’s hard to imagine the United States as Singapore, but it struck me that if expanded public housing is possible in Paris, then perhaps Americans could envision it being possible in the United States. How do we get to a program like that, which seems to have at least been popular enough to get the mayor re-elected?
The Singapore and Hong Kong cases are crucial, because that’s a completely different model of how land is mobilized for housing and how pensions are mobilized for housing, where public housing is not stigmatized but it’s simply the way to live.
I think the challenge with Paris is that it is a deeply racialized, divided city, where public housing has been built on the peripheries of the city. And this is the case in many European contexts. That’s been the big struggle in Europe at the moment. There’s been a privatization of social housing, even in a place like Sweden. But also, a lot of the public housing has become a concentration of immigrant families, who are then stigmatized. And this is true in Paris. So there’s a double challenge there, both expanding public housing and also rethinking this territorial and racialized stigmatization.
Does that stigma seem inevitable?
So, two things. One, I think that this housing crisis that I am anticipating might end up being worse than what happened during the Great Depression. And one of the reasons we got the New Deal was it wasn’t just the poorest of the poor who were suffering. Those who were lining up at the soup kitchens were, in fact, the middle class. Those who were being forced to live in the Hoovervilles were those who never thought that they would be houseless. At moments when there’s been a generalized condition of precarity, some of the stigma goes away, and a new politics of solidarity is possible.
The second piece of it is that social housing need not take the form of towers on the periphery of a city or the form of Cabrini-Green that is seen to be dangerous and must be torn down. There are many models of social housing, like community land trusts, tenant-owned housing coops and limited-equity co-ops. Many of those experiments have been with various kinds of decommodification of land and cooperative housing. There’s a lot of imaginative work possible that various movements have been thinking about.
It’s occurred to me that we can build middle-class housing, protect tenants, build public housing, repurpose abandoned or underwater buildings and fight homelessness at the same time. But this would require a lot of what you called solidarity between different spheres in the housing realm. How does one accomplish this?
I want to make a distinction between “all housing matters” and housing justice. Housing justice is a set of programs and policies focused on the experiences and needs of communities on the front lines of dispossession and displacement. It recognizes that the land and wealth loss suffered by such communities has often been the grounds for gentrification and other forms of urban development. Most important for the issue at hand, housing justice insists that the housing market is the problem, not the solution.
I think solidarity can be built between organizations and movements that share this approach, as we are seeing in the struggles that link unhoused neighbors with precariously housed tenants. But I do not think that such solidarity is possible with those who advocate market solutions to the housing crisis and imply that housing benefits will trickle down to those who are suffering or that such suffering is simply the human costs of all markets. As is the case with all markets, housing markets are a far cry from demand and supply equilibrium. Instead, they are controlled and manipulated by powerful actors who exercise dominance, evade regulation and thrive on the income and geographical segmentation of such markets. If building a certain type of housing means valorizing these actors and their extractive business models, then that runs contrary to housing justice and only aids the exploitation of those facing housing insecurity. There’s a wonderful line by one of my favorite decolonial thinkers, Walter Mignolo, that applies here: “Why would you want to save capitalism and not save human beings?”
Surprising Stat of the Week
Over the past year, Congress has allocated $46 billion in emergency rental assistance. According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, as of Wednesday afternoon, just over 20 percent of this funding had been distributed to the two groups the money was intended to help: rent-burdened tenants and mom-and-pop landlords.
Virginia has spent $300 million, or about 57 percent of its federal allotment. That’s good for first in the nation. But the state that has spent the second most, percentagewise? That would be Texas, which has spent almost $700 million, or 53 percent of what it was allotted on a per-capita basis. New York ($638 million, 53.3) Illinois ($209 million, 37 percent), and Alaska ($100 million, 35 percent) come after Texas. (The rankings of all 50 states and the District of Columbia can be found here. To save you a click: The bottom five states are Mississippi, Wyoming, Alabama, Arkansas, and South Carolina.)
There seems to be a host of reasons the money has stayed in state coffers. These include faulty computer systems, unreliable contractors hired by states to process requests, understaffing and general confusion over who, exactly, is supposed to handle this. But one of the top reasons appears to be that people just don’t know that the program exists. A study by the Urban Institute found that more than half of renters and 40 percent of landlords were unaware that federal assistance was available. Among renters who were aware, almost half said they hadn’t applied because of uncertainty about receiving the assistance payment.
If you look a bit closer at Texas, the slowness with which states have distributed these funds becomes even more inexcusable. As recently as this March, Texas had handed out assistance to only 250 families, out of 72,000 applicants. In April the Texas House Committee on Urban Affairs released a report detailing the failures of Horne, the contractor Texas had spent $42.5 million on to manage the relief program, including faulty technology and a lack of coherent infrastructure. The good news is that after that report, Texas began a series of improvements that shot it past almost every other state in the country. In Fort Worth, for example, Terrance Jones, an employee in the city’s Neighborhood Services Department, told the local CBS station, “We’re actually taking checks out to apartment complexes who are on the brink of evicting someone to make sure that check is in hand before they evict them.”
By Greta Thunberg, Adriana Calderón, Farzana Faruk Jhumu and Eric Njuguna, August 19, 2021
The authors are youth climate activists from Sweden, Mexico, Bangladesh and Kenya, working with the international youth-led Fridays For Future movement.
Illustration by The New York Times; Photograph by Pablo Blazquez Dominguez\Stringer
Last week, some of the world’s leading climate change scientists confirmed that humans are making irreversible changes to our planet and extreme weather will only become more severe. This news is a “code red for humanity,” said the United Nations secretary general.
It is — but young people like us have been sounding this alarm for years. You just haven’t listened.
On Aug. 20, 2018, one child staged a lone protest outside the Swedish Parliament, expecting to stay for three weeks. Tomorrow we will mark three years since Greta Thunberg’s strike. Even earlier, brave young people from around the world spoke out about the climate crisis in their communities. And today, millions of children and young people have united in a movement with one voice, demanding that decision makers do the work necessary to save our planet from the unprecedented heat waves, massive floods and vast wildfires we are increasingly witnessing. Our protest will not end until the inaction does.
For children and young people, climate change is the single greatest threat to our futures. We are the ones who will have to clean up the mess you adults have made, and we are the ones who are more likely to suffer now. Children are more vulnerable than adults to the dangerous weather events, diseases and other harms caused by climate change, which is why a new analysis released Friday by UNICEF is so important.
The Children’s Climate Risk Index provides the first comprehensive view of where and how this crisis affects children. It ranks countries based on children’s exposure to climate and environmental shocks, as well as their underlying vulnerability to those shocks.
It finds that virtually every child on the planet is exposed to at least one climate or environmental hazard right now. A staggering 850 million, about a third of all the world’s children, are exposed to four or more climate or environmental hazards, including heat waves, cyclones, air pollution, flooding or water scarcity. A billion children, nearly half the children in the world, live in “extremely high risk” countries, the UNICEF researchers report.
This is the world being left to us. But there is still time to change our climate future. Around the world, our movement of young activists continues to grow.
In Bangladesh, Tahsin Uddin, 23, saw the impacts of climate change in his village and other coastal areas and was moved to action. He is passionate about climate education and has created a network of young journalists and educators to spread awareness, all while organizing cleanups of waterways teeming with plastic waste pollution.
In the Philippines, Mitzi Jonelle Tan, 23, has had to complete her homework by candlelight as typhoons raged outside and wiped out her community’s electricity. She told us there were times she was afraid of drowning in her own bedroom as water flooded in. Now she is leading youth in her country to respond to the aftermath of those typhoons and other hazards through sharing food, water, clothes and support with the most affected communities.
In Zimbabwe, Nkosi Nyathi, 18, is worried about a potential food crisis if weather patterns continue. Heat waves made school a challenging experience for him and his peers. Now he speaks to leaders from around the world to demand the inclusion of young people in decisions that affect their future.
The fundamental goal of the adults in any society is to protect their young and do everything they can to leave a better world than the one they inherited. The current generation of adults, and those that came before, are failing at a global scale.
The Children’s Climate Risk Index reveals a disturbing global inequity when it comes to the worst effects of climate change. Thirty-three countries, including the Central African Republic, Chad, Nigeria and Guinea, are considered extremely high-risk for children, but those countries collectively emit just 9 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions. The 10 countries with the highest emissions, including China, the United States, Russia and Japan, collectively account for nearly 70 percent of global emissions. And children in those higher-emitting states face lower risks: Only one of these countries, India, is ranked as extremely high-risk in the UNICEF report.
Many higher-risk countries are poorer nations from the global south, and it’s there that people will be most impacted, despite contributing the least to the problem. We will not allow industrialized countries to duck responsibility for the suffering of children in other parts of the world. Governments, industry and the rest of the international community must work together to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, as 195 nations committed to do in the Paris Climate Agreement of 2015.
We have less than 100 days until the U.N. Climate Change Conference, also known as COP26, in Glasgow. The world’s climate scientists have made it clear that the time is now — we must act urgently to avoid the worst possible consequences. The world’s young people stand with the scientists and will continue to sound the alarm.
We are in a crisis of crises. A pollution crisis. A climate crisis. A children’s rights crisis. We will not allow the world to look away.
By Peter Canellos, August 20, 2021
Mr. Canellos is a managing editor at Politico and author of “The Great Dissenter: The Story of John Marshall Harlan, America’s Judicial Hero.”https://www.nytimes.com/2021/08/20/opinion/supreme-court-lynching-chatanooga.html
In the annals of the Supreme Court, the case of United States v. Shipp is an anomaly. Brought in the first decade of the 20th century, the Shipp case is the only time the court conducted a criminal trial, with justices serving as jurors.
But a case that history largely ignored is looking more and more like a landmark. The Shipp case was one of the first times the justices actively stood up on behalf of African Americans. The court left an evidentiary record that has become the basis for an inspiring act of racial healing. The Black and white communities of Chattanooga, Tenn., are working together to mark the site of a lynching in the heart of the city and at the heart of the case. Years of effort will culminate in the dedication of a memorial on Sept. 19.
In a time of mistrust along racial lines, the initiative in Chattanooga is a model for other communities. It demonstrates that agreed-upon facts can be a precursor to recovery. It couldn’t have existed without United States v. Shipp.
The story of the Shipp case begins in January 1906. That’s when Nevada Taylor, a young white woman, was raped in a Chattanooga cemetery. The crime provoked a frenzied reaction, putting pressure on the local sheriff, a proud Confederate veteran named Joseph Shipp, to identify and apprehend the rapist. The search had turned up a piece of leather. Upon the offering of a $375 reward for information leading to an arrest, a white man claimed to have seen a Black man milling around the cemetery, twirling a piece of leather shortly before the crime. He identified Ed Johnson as the man at the scene. Seizing on this shred of evidence, Shipp arrested and jailed Johnson.
On the night of Jan. 25, a mob of hundreds of men tried to ram their way through the jail to reach Johnson. The local judge, Samuel McReynolds, in an effort to calm the crowd, promised to put the case first on his docket and expressed hope for an execution “before the setting of Saturday’s sun.”
The rush to judgment continued through the trial. There were numerous witnesses who could say that they’d seen Johnson elsewhere during the time of the attack. And when asked to identify her rapist, Taylor said she believed that it was Johnson. But she declined to make a definitive identification. Taking the stand a second time, under a demand that she swear “in God’s name” that Johnson was the man who assaulted her, Taylor only reiterated that she believed that Johnson was her attacker. A juror shouted out a threat: “If I could get at him, I would tear his heart out right now.” Judge McReynolds failed to remove the juror, and Johnson was convicted and sentenced to death.
Two Black, pioneering lawyers — Noah Parden and Styles Hutchins — led Johnson’s appeals. In an attempt to stop an unfair execution, Parden made a frantic journey to see the Supreme Court justice designated to hear emergency appeals from Tennessee, John Marshall Harlan. Fortunately, Harlan was also the lone dissenter in Plessy v. Ferguson, the case that advanced the separate-but-equal doctrine.
Over two decades, Harlan had failed to persuade a single colleague of the injustices being visited on African Americans. States’ violations of Black defendants’ rights were more a norm than an aberration. But the Supreme Court had resolutely looked the other way. For Harlan, Parden’s arrival was a rare opportunity. Here, finally, in his capacity overseeing the Sixth Circuit, was a chance to order a federal review on his own.
After Parden presented the facts of the case, Harlan telegraphed the local authorities on March 18 that a stay of execution was necessary for the Supreme Court to review the case. White Chattanooga rebelled.
The next day, jail keepers offered no resistance when the mob came around.
The vigilantes carried Johnson to the city’s most visible landmark, the Walnut Street Bridge. Using trolley wires, they strung him up and offered a last chance to confess. “God bless you all. I am a innocent man,” he said.
They hanged him and peppered his body with gunshots.
Someone attached a note addressed to “Chief Harlan.” Here lay his man — though that’s not the word they used. “Thanks for your kind consideration of him. You can find him at the morgue.”
Outraged, Harlan persuaded his colleagues to take the unprecedented step of sitting as a trial court. The U.S. attorney general, William Henry Moody, filed a petition charging Sheriff Shipp, other officials and mob leaders with contempt of the Supreme Court. After the presentation of voluminous evidence — including the testimony of Shipp’s Black cook, who said that the sheriff had anticipated a mob attack should the execution be stayed — six of the defendants, including Shipp, were found guilty of contempt. Shipp and two others were sentenced to 90 days in jail; the other three received 60-day sentences.
Shipp was released early and returned home to thousands of supporters and a band playing “Dixie.” Much of white Chattanooga promptly forgot about the case. Much of Black Chattanooga didn’t speak of it, hoping to spare future generations the pain. Today, LaFrederick Thirkill, a local school principal, remembers a family member refusing to cross the Walnut Street expanse, saying it “wasn’t a good bridge.”
One day, Mr. Thirkill noticed a newspaper article about an abandoned African American cemetery. He organized a cleanup of the site. While there, Leroy Phillips — a lawyer who in 2000 had argued on behalf of Johnson in a posthumous hearing that cleared him of the rape — said that he had something to show Mr. Thirkill. Mr. Phillips led him directly to Johnson’s grave. There on the grave marker were Johnson’s last words: “God Bless you all. I AM A Innocent man.”
Between 1883 and 1941, thousands of Black men were lynched in America. Many killings were attributed to faceless marauders, which allowed civic leaders to deny any responsibility. That wasn’t true in Johnson’s case. Thanks to the Supreme Court case, there is a litany of evidence implicating multiple facets of Chattanooga society, from the pulpit to the newsroom to the courthouse to the jail. The Shipp case established a record that leaves no room for excuses or ambiguities. And therein lay the seeds of reconciliation.
What was horrifying was also clarifying. With Mr. Thirkill taking the lead, Black and white Chattanooga came together to memorialize Ed Johnson and to recognize the injustice that had taken place. A former Chattanooga mayor, Bob Corker, who more recently was a U.S. senator, was among the backers. Mitch Patel, an Indian American hotelier, was a major benefactor. Now, in a grove beside the bridge where Johnson was murdered, sculptures of Johnson, Parden and Hutchins will forever mark the spot of a crime for which much of Chattanooga was a co-conspirator.
An earlier proposal featured a sculpture of a seated Justice Harlan. It wasn’t included, which seems appropriate. Ed Johnson lost his life proclaiming his innocence, and his lawyers risked theirs for the cause of justice. Harlan merely did the right thing under the law.
But that, too, is a lesson worth remembering: just how few people did the right thing under the law.
Racial covenants were designed to keep neighborhoods segregated. Some states are now making it easier to erase them from legal documents.
By Sara Clemence, Published Aug. 17, 2021, Updated Aug. 19, 2021https://www.nytimes.com/2021/08/17/realestate/racism-home-deeds.html
Last year, to celebrate the centennial of their charming Craftsman home, Kyona and Kenneth Zak repainted it in historically accurate colors — gray, bronze green and copper red. They commissioned beveled-glass windows to complement the original stained glass. And they visited the San Diego County Recorder, to have a line drawn through a sentence in their deed that once would have prohibited Ms. Zak, who is Black, from owning the home.
“I’ve referred to it as the ultimate smudge stick to the house,” said Ms. Zak, an ayurvedic health counselor and yoga therapist, drawing parallels to the Indigenous practice of purifying a place by burning sacred herbs.
Buried in the fine print of the Zaks’ deed was a racial covenant, a clause that barred anyone “other than the White or Caucasian race” from owning the home. For much of the 20th century, it was common practice to insert such restrictions into deeds. The covenants targeted people who were Asian, Latino and Jewish, but especially those who were Black.
Racial covenants were used across the United States, and though they are now illegal, the ugly language remains in countless property records. In Seattle and Boston, Los Angeles and Long Island and beyond, racism doesn’t just hit close to home — it can be part of it. Homeowners may not even know that their deed includes a covenant; it’s easily missed in the slew of paperwork that comes with buying a home.
Now, a number of states are enacting laws enabling homeowners to reject and more easily eliminate racial covenants. But covenants and other racist policies of the past have left a deep legacy of inequality, and many believe that merely renouncing the words is no substitute for doing the hard work to undo their impact.
The Zaks live in Mission Hills, an affluent neighborhood in San Diego that was developed in the early 20th century, at a time racial covenants were embraced and promoted by real estate agents, developers and the federal government.
In 1917, the Supreme Court struck down racial zoning laws that were designed to keep cities segregated, according to Richard Brooks, visiting professor of law and senior research scholar at Yale Law School and co-author of the book “Saving the Neighborhood: Racially Restrictive Covenants, Law, and Social Norms.” Racial covenants, though, could be implemented on an individual or neighborhood level — less centralized than laws, but not necessarily less powerful.
“Private action was thought to be not subject to constitutional constraints,” said Carol Rose, G. B. Tweedy professor emeritus at Yale Law School and Lohse professor of law emeritus at the University of Arizona, and Mr. Brooks’ co-author. High-end real estate developments built in the early 20th century, such as Palos Verdes Estates in Los Angeles, included racial covenants from the beginning, she said. In older areas, homeowners went door-to-door to convince neighbors to add the covenants to deeds.
In 1927, the National Association of Real Estate Boards — now the National Association of Realtors — championed racial covenants, creating a model clause that was inserted into countless deeds. It read, in part: “No part of said premises shall be sold, given, conveyed or leased to any negro or negroes.” (Late last year, in the wake of the racial justice movement sparked by the murder of George Floyd at the hands of police officers, the association issued a formal apology for its past racist actions.)
The Federal Housing Administration, which was created in the 1930s to insure home mortgages, also all but required racial covenants to guarantee loans, including those for developments like Levittown, a community of mass-produced tract homes on Long Island that opened in the late 1940s and where only “members of the Caucasian race” were allowed to live.
In 1948, the Supreme Court ruled that racial covenants couldn’t be enforced — though not that they couldn’t be used. Twenty years later, the Fair Housing Act finally made racial covenants illegal. But the words and their profound effect on the housing landscape have lived on.
“Enforcement in court is just one way covenants facilitated segregation, and not even the most important way,” Mr. Brooks said. “The covenant gave a signal. Who should we bring to this neighborhood? Who will get financing? Who will get insured?”
Just by their presence, covenants communicated to white buyers that living in mixed neighborhoods was a risk to their home values, Mr. Brooks said.
A lawyer turned novelist, Mr. Zak dug his 10-page deed out of the roughly 100-page pile of closing documents for his home after reading a news article about covenants in 2019. (When he read the article, he said, “You know what? I thought I saw that language in our document”) An attached rider announced that discriminatory clauses were not enforceable. “That didn’t seem like enough for us,” he said. “Now it’s redacted and rejected.” On their updated deed, the covenant is visible, but crossed out.
Making such changes wasn’t always possible, said Kirsten Delegard, co-founder of Mapping Prejudice, a project that has been identifying and mapping racial covenants in the twin cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul.
“Until very recently, it’s been a huge ordeal,” she said. “You have to go to court, you have to hire a lawyer. It’s very expensive.”
Covenants have historically been difficult to remove because they “run with the land” — in other words, they’re considered a permanent feature of the property. “It’s like a setback; you can’t just redact that on your own,” Ms. Rose said. “You’ve got to have an affidavit, you have to have this, that. A number of people in the past have given up.”
Within the past three years, at least eight states have passed laws aimed at making it easier — though not necessarily easy — for homeowners to remove racial covenants from deeds. Another half dozen, including New York and California, have bills pending. The Zaks gladly paid a $95 fee to get rid of their covenant; California’s proposal would eliminate the cost.
“We’re trying to make it universally free and seamless so a homeowner can right a wrong,” said Kevin McCarty, a state assemblyman for Sacramento, who this year co-introduced a bill based on one that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed in 2009.
Mr. McCarty, who is half Black, encountered a racial covenant when he bought his first home. He didn’t have it removed, he said. At the time, he didn’t even know it was possible.
“Look, is this going to address inequities in homeownership for Black Californians?” he said. “No, it won’t. Nonetheless, I think the words don’t belong there. They’re harmful. To me it’s akin to leaving a sign above a water fountain that says ‘White Only.’ ”
Nobody knows how many deeds have racial covenants attached to them, because public record-keeping is so localized and the language can be buried deep. Mapping Prejudice had to create a search tool to comb through 10 million images of public documents from Hennepin County in Minnesota, Ms. Delegard said. It found 30,000 “suspects,” which were uploaded to a crowdsourcing platform so community members could help identify covenants.
But location, not just the number of covenants, made the restrictions effective, Ms. Rose said. Racial covenants were often strategically added to deeds in “buffer” areas adjacent to Black neighborhoods. Along with redlining, a federal practice of refusing financing in minority neighborhoods that were outlined in red on maps, they were part of a system that denied Black people the freedom to purchase a home of their choosing — and often, any home at all. Minorities were often confined to neighborhoods with unequal public services and education, and consequently deprived of much of the wealth that white buyers accumulated through appreciating home values.
Increasingly, homeowners want to renounce their racial covenants. Last year, Just Deeds, a coalition of real estate and title professionals, attorneys, community members and city staff who are providing pro bono help with discharging covenants, launched in the Minneapolis area. As a decentralized effort, the group doesn’t have a firm count of how many homeowners it has helped. But when Just Deeds became active within the city of Minneapolis, it got more than 700 applications in the first week, said Maria Cisneros, a founder of the coalition and city attorney for the suburb of Golden Valley.
“The more publicity we get, the more demand there is,” she said.
Some housing experts say that renouncing racist language isn’t enough — and organizers agree.
“I would never speak against or minimize things that people do to register that they have some level of displeasure, at the minimum, around these kinds of things,” said Elaine Gross, president of ERASE Racism, a Long Island organization that promotes racial equity. “I do think that is important. Would I say that it’s the most important action that needs to be done? No.”
Projects like Just Deeds and Mapping Prejudice say they aim not to just change records, but minds.
“There’s this tendency for people to say, ‘I found this horrible thing and I’m going to get rid of it,’ ” Ms. Delegard said. “I think we have to constantly be pushing the fact that we can’t be content with virtue signaling.”
The Zaks are mindful that Mission Hills is still mostly white, and have been trying to raise awareness of racial covenants. They’ve used their experience to talk to neighbors about institutionalized racism.
“We’ve had some interesting, uncomfortable conversations,” Mr. Zak said. “Uncomfortable but necessary.”
Recent history suggests that it is foolish for Western powers to fight wars in other people’s lands and that the U.S. intervention was almost certainly doomed from the start.
By Adam Nossiter, Aug. 21, 2021https://www.nytimes.com/2021/08/21/world/europe/afghanistan-us-history-colonial-wars.html
A soldier carrying his gear preparing to leave a base in Kunduz in 2011. Credit...Damon Winter/The New York Times
It was 8 a.m. and the sleepy Afghan sergeant stood at what he called the front line, one month before the city of Kunduz fell to the Taliban. An unspoken agreement protected both sides. There would be no shooting.
That was the nature of the strange war the Afghans just fought, and lost, with the Taliban.
President Biden and his advisers say the Afghan military’s total collapse proved its unworthiness, vindicating the American pullout. But the extraordinary melting away of government and army, and the bloodless transition in most places so far, point to something more fundamental.
The war the Americans thought they were fighting against the Taliban was not the war their Afghan allies were fighting. That made the American war, like other such neocolonialist adventures, most likely doomed from the start.
Recent history shows it is foolish for Western powers to fight wars in other people’s lands, despite the temptations. Homegrown insurgencies, though seemingly outmatched in money, technology, arms, air power and the rest, are often better motivated, have a constant stream of new recruits, and often draw sustenance from just over the border.
Outside powers are fighting one war as visitors — occupiers — and their erstwhile allies who actually live there, something entirely different. In Afghanistan, it was not good versus evil, as the Americans saw it, but neighbor against neighbor.
When it comes to guerrilla war, Mao once described the relationship that should exist between a people and troops. “The former may be likened to water,” he wrote, “the latter to the fish who inhabit it.”
And when it came to Afghanistan, the Americans were a fish out of water. Just as the Russians had been in the 1980s. Just as the Americans were in Vietnam in the 1960s. And as the French were in Algeria in the 1950s. And the Portuguese during their futile attempts to keep their African colonies in the ’60s and ’70s. And the Israelis during their occupation of southern Lebanon in the ’80s.
Each time the intervening power in all these places announced that the homegrown insurgency had been definitively beaten, or that a corner had been turned, smoldering embers led to new conflagrations.
The Americans thought they had defeated the Taliban by the end of 2001. They were no longer a concern. But the result was actually far more ambiguous.
“Most had essentially melted away, and we weren’t sure where they’d gone,” wrote Brig. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, as quoted by the historian Carter Malkasian in a new book, “The American War in Afghanistan.”
In fact, the Taliban were never actually beaten. Many had been killed by the Americans, but the rest simply faded into the mountains and villages, or across the border into Pakistan, which has succored the movement since its inception.
By 2006, they had reconstituted sufficiently to launch a major offensive. The end of the story played out in the grim and foreordained American humiliation that unfolded over the past week — the consecration of the U.S. military loss.
“In the long run all colonial wars are lost,” the historian of Portugal’s misadventures in Africa, Patrick Chabal, wrote 20 years ago, just as the Americans were becoming fatally embroiled in Afghanistan.
The superpower’s two-decade entanglement and ultimate defeat was all the more surprising in that the America of the decades preceding the millennium had been suffused with talk of the supposed “lessons” of Vietnam.
The dominant one was enunciated by the former majority leader of the Senate, Mike Mansfield, in the late 1970s: “The cost was 55,000 dead, 303,000 wounded, $150 billion,” Mansfield told a radio interviewer. “It was unnecessary, uncalled-for, it wasn’t tied to our security or a vital interest. It was just a misadventure in a part of the world which we should have kept our nose out of.”
Long before, at the very beginning of the “misadventure,” in 1961, President John F. Kennedy had been warned off Vietnam by no less an authority than Charles de Gaulle. “I predict that you will sink step by step into a bottomless military and political quagmire, however much you spend in men and money,” de Gaulle, the French president, later recalled telling Kennedy.
The American ignored him. In words that foreshadowed both the Vietnam and Afghan debacles, de Gaulle warned Kennedy: “Even if you find local leaders who in their own interests are prepared to obey you, the people will not agree to it, and indeed do not want you.”
By 1968, American generals were arguing that the North Vietnamese had been “whipped,” as one put it. The problem was, the enemy refused to recognize that it had been defeated, and went right on fighting, as the foreign policy analysts James Chace and David Fromkin observed in the mid-1980s. The Americans’ South Vietnamese ally, meanwhile, was corrupt and had little popular support.
The same unholy trinity of realities — boastful generals, an unbowed enemy, a feeble ally — could have been observed at all points during the U.S. engagement in Afghanistan.
Kennedy should have listened to de Gaulle. The French president, unlike his American counterparts then and later, distrusted the generals and would not listen to their blandishments, despite being France’s premier military hero.
He was at that moment extricating France from a brutal eight-year colonial war in Algeria, against the fervent wishes of his top officers and the European settlers there who wanted to maintain the more than century-old colonial rule. His generals argued, rightly, that the interior Algerian guerrilla resistance had been largely smashed.
But de Gaulle had the wisdom to see that the fight was not over.
Massed at Algeria’s borders was what the insurgents called the “army of the frontiers,” later the Army of National Liberation, or A.L.N., which became today’s A.N.P., or National People’s Army, still the dominant element in Algerian political life.
“What motivated de Gaulle was they still had an army on the frontiers,” said Benjamin Stora, the leading historian of the Franco-Algerian relationship. “So the situation was frozen, militarily. De Gaulle’s reasoning was, if we maintain the status quo, we lose a lot.” He pulled the French out in a decision that still torments them.
The A.L.N. chief, later Algeria’s most important post-independence leader, Houari Boumediène, incarnated strains in the Algerian revolution — dominating strains — that will be familiar to Taliban watchers: religion and nationalism. The Islamists later turned against him over socialism. But the mass outpouring of popular grief at Boumediène’s funeral in 1978 was genuine.
Boumediène’s hold on the people emanated from his own humble origins and his tenacity against the hated French occupier. Those elements help explain the Taliban’s virtually seamless infiltration across Afghan territory in the weeks and months preceding this week’s final victory.
The United States thought it was helping Afghans fight an avatar of evil, the Taliban, the running mate of international terrorism. That was the American optic and the American war.
But the Afghans, many of them, were not fighting that war. The Taliban are from their towns and villages. Afghanistan, particularly in its urban centers, may have changed over 20 years of American occupation. But the laws the Taliban promoted — repressive policies toward women — were not so different, if they differed at all, from immemorial customs in many of these rural villages, particularly in the Pashtun south.
“There is resistance to girls’ education in many rural communities in Afghanistan,” a Human Rights Watch report noted soberly last year. And outside provincial capitals, even in the north, it is rare to see women not wearing the burqa.
This is why for years the Taliban have been dispensing justice, often brutally, in the areas they have controlled, with the acquiescence — even the acceptance — of the local populations. Disputes over property and cases of petty crime are adjudicated expeditiously, sometimes by religious scholars — and these courts have a reputation for “incorruptibility” compared with the former government’s rotten system, Human Rights Watch wrote.
It is a system focused on punishment, often harsh. And despite the Taliban’s protestations this week of forgiveness for those who served the now defunct Afghan administration, they have not shown anything like tolerance in the past. The group’s system of clandestine prisons, housing large numbers of soldiers and government workers, inspired fear in local populations all over Afghanistan.
The Taliban leader, Mullah Abdul Gani Baradar, was reported to have received an enthusiastic welcome when he returned this week to the southern city of Kandahar, the birthplace of the Taliban. That should be another element of reflection for the superpower which, 20 years ago, felt it had no choice but to respond with its military to the crimes of Sept. 11.
For Mr. Malkasian, the historian who was himself a former adviser to America’s top commander in Afghanistan, there is a lesson from the experience, but it is not necessarily that America should have stayed away.
“If you have to go in, go in with the understanding that you can’t wholly succeed,” he said in an interview. “Don’t go in thinking, you’re going to solve it, or fix it.”
Last year, more than $200 million was spent on campaigning for a state proposition that ensured workers like Uber and Lyft drivers were considered independent contractors.
By Kate Conger, Aug. 20, 2021https://www.nytimes.com/2021/08/20/technology/prop-22-california-ruling.html?action=click&module=Well&pgtype=Homepage§ion=Business
A California judge faulted Proposition 22 on Friday for restricting the State Legislature from making gig workers like Uber and Lyft drivers eligible for workers’ compensation. Credit...Tag Christof for The New York Times
A California law that ensures many gig workers are considered independent contractors, while affording them some limited benefits, is unconstitutional and unenforceable, a California Superior Court judge ruled Friday evening.
The decision is not likely to immediately affect the new law and is certain to face appeals from Uber and other so-called gig economy companies. It reopened the debate about whether drivers for ride-hailing services and delivery couriers are employees who deserve full benefits, or independent contractors who are responsible for their own businesses and benefits.
Last year’s Proposition 22, a ballot initiative backed by Uber, Lyft, DoorDash and other gig economy platforms, carved out a third classification for workers, granting gig workers limited benefits while preventing them from being considered employees of the tech giants. The initiative was approved in November with more than 58 percent of the vote.
But drivers and the Service Employees International Union filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the law. The group argued that Prop. 22 was unconstitutional because it limited the State Legislature’s ability to allow workers to organize and have access to workers’ compensation.
The law also requires a seven-eighths majority for the Legislature to pass any amendments to Prop. 22, a supermajority that was viewed as all but impossible to achieve.
Judge Frank Roesch said in his ruling that Prop. 22 violated California’s Constitution because it restricted the Legislature from making gig workers eligible for workers’ compensation.
“The entirety of Proposition 22 is unenforceable,” he wrote, creating fresh legal upheaval in the long battle over the employment rights of gig workers.
“I think the judge made a very sound decision in finding that Prop. 22 is unconstitutional because it had some unusual provisions in it,” said Veena Dubal, a professor at the University of California’s Hastings College of Law who studies the gig economy and filed a brief in the case supporting the drivers’ position. “It was written in such a comprehensive way to prevent the workers from having access to any rights that the Legislature decided.”
Scott Kronland, a lawyer for the drivers, praised Judge Roesch’s decision. “Our position is that he’s exactly right and that his ruling is going to be upheld on appeal,” Mr. Kronland said.
But the gig economy companies argued that the judge had erred by “ignoring a century’s worth of case law requiring the courts to guard the voters’ right of initiative,” said Geoff Vetter, a spokesman for the Protect App-Based Drivers & Services Coalition, a group that represents gig platforms.
An Uber spokesman said the ruling ignored the majority of California voters who supported Prop. 22. “We will appeal, and we expect to win,” the spokesman, Noah Edwardsen, said. “Meanwhile, Prop. 22 remains in effect, including all of the protections and benefits it provides independent workers across the state.”
Uber and other gig economy companies are pursuing similar legislation in Massachusetts. This month, a coalition of companies filed a ballot proposal that could allow voters in the state to decide next year whether gig workers should be considered independent contractors.
"What is going on is not simply a warm decade or two in a wandering climate pattern. This is unprecedented," said one climate scientist.
By JAKE JOHNSON, August 20, 2021https://www.commondreams.org/news/2021/08/20/rainfall-observed-peak-greenland-ice-sheet-first-time-record?utm_term=AO&utm_campaign=Daily%20Newsletter&utm_content=email&utm_source=Daily%20Newsletter&utm_medium=Email
This past weekend, researchers at the National Science Foundation's Summit Station observed rainfall at the peak of Greenland's rapidly melting ice sheet for the first time on record—an event driven by warming temperatures.
"This was the third time in less than a decade, and the latest date in the year on record, that the National Science Foundation's Summit Station had above-freezing temperatures and wet snow," the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) said in a press release earlier this week. "There is no previous report of rainfall at this location (72.58°N 38.46°W), which reaches 3,216 meters (10,551 feet) in elevation."
Temperatures at the summit of the ice sheet rose above freezing at around 5:00 am local time on Saturday, "and the rain event began at the same time," NSIDC noted. "For the next several hours, rain fell and water droplets were seen on surfaces near the camp as reported by on-station observers."
The anomalous rainfall at the ice sheet's peak marked the start of a three-day period during which "above-freezing temperatures and rainfall were widespread to the south and west of Greenland... with exceptional readings from several remote weather stations in the area," said NSIDC. "Total rainfall on the ice sheet was 7 billion tons."
The warmer-than-usual temperatures caused significant melting of the ice sheet, with melt extent peaking at 337,000 square miles on August 14.
"Warm conditions and the late-season timing of the three-day melt event coupled with the rainfall led to both high melting and high runoff volumes to the ocean," NSIDC observed. "On August 15 2021, the surface mass lost was seven times above the mid-August average... At this point in the season, large areas of bare ice exist along much of the southwestern and northern coastal areas, with no ability to absorb the melt or rainfall. Therefore, the accumulated water on the surface flows downhill and eventually into the ocean."
Ted Scambos, a senior research scientist at the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences at the University of Colorado at Boulder, told the Washington Post on Thursday that while the three-day melting event "by itself does not have a huge impact," it is "indicative of the increasing extent, duration, and intensity of melting on Greenland."
"Like the heat wave in the [U.S. Pacific] northwest, it’s something that's hard to imagine without the influence of global climate change," said Scambos. "Greenland, like the rest of the world, is changing. We now see three melting events in a decade in Greenland—and before 1990, that happened about once every 150 years. And now rainfall: in an area where rain never fell.”
In a landmark report released earlier this month, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concluded that "it is very likely that human influence has contributed to the observed surface melting of the Greenland ice sheet over the past two decades."
In July—which the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration recently deemed the hottest month ever recorded on Earth—a heat wave in Greenland caused enough melting to cover the entire state of Florida with two inches of water.
"What is going on is not simply a warm decade or two in a wandering climate pattern," Scambos told CNN in response to the rainfall at the ice sheet's summit. "This is unprecedented."
Two new books, Edith Widder’s “Below the Edge of Darkness” and Helen Scales’s “The Brilliant Abyss,” explore the darkest reaches and all that glows there.
By Robert Moor, August 20, 2021https://www.nytimes.com/2021/08/20/books/review/below-edge-darkness-edith-widder-brilliant-abyss-helen-scales-deep-ocean.html
In the deep sea, it is always night and it is always snowing. A shower of so-called marine snow — made up of pale flecks of dead flesh, plants, sand, soot, dust and excreta — sifts down from the world above. When it strikes the seafloor, or when it is disturbed, it will sometimes light up, a phenomenon known, wonderfully, as “snow shine.” Vampire squids, umbrella-shaped beings with skin the color of persimmons, float around collecting this luminous substance into tiny snowballs, which they calmly eat. They are not alone in this habit. Most deep-sea creatures eat snow, or they eat the snow eaters.
Until fairly recently, it was widely believed that the deep seas were mostly devoid of life. For centuries, fishermen hauled in deep-sea trawling nets filled with slime, not knowing that these were carcasses. Some animals, adapted to the pressure of the deep, are so delicate that in lighter waters a mere wave of your hand could reduce them to shreds. The myth of the dead deep sea, known as the Abyssus Theory, was disproved by a series of dredging and trawling expeditions in the 19th century, including a German scientific expedition in 1898 that pulled up the first known vampire squid. But the misconception nevertheless lingered. In 1977, a geologist piloting a submersible near the mouth of a hydrothermal vent, and finding it swarming with creatures, asked the research crew up above, “Isn’t the deep ocean supposed to be like a desert?”
The naturalist William Beebe — the man who coined the phrase “marine snow” — famously made a series of early submersible expeditions, ultimately reaching a depth of a half-mile. He returned in a state of astonishment, carrying “the memory of living scenes in a world as strange as that of Mars.” In fact, it was far stranger. (Mars, being a largely dead planet, is by comparison dead boring.) Down there, many creatures are translucent; others are Vantablack. Some are delicate; others have shells of actual iron. Pale violet octopuses — which normally prefer solitude — gather for warmth in cuddle puddles numbering in the hundreds. Sperm-shaped creatures called giant larvaceans live within a self-constructed cloud of mucous many feet wide, equipped with gorgeously vaulted, wing-shaped chambers designed to filter out food. (Forget Calatrava; not even Calvino could imagine a house as mind-bendingly lovely as these giant gobs of goo.)
And nearly all of them — the fish, the squids, the shrimp — glow.
I know all this because, on a recent trip to Fire Island, I read a pair of new books about the deep sea. Lying on the hot sand, I plunged my head into the chilly darkness of an alien world. It was thrilling, and — for a variety of reasons — more than a little terrifying.
The first (and most gripping) book I read was “Below the Edge of Darkness,” by an oceanographer named Edith Widder. The title is derived from the suboceanic border of the Twilight Zone, where light is dim, and the Midnight Zone, where light is nil. (“I could never again use the word black with any conviction,” wrote Beebe, after reaching the edge of the Midnight Zone.) But darkness — in the optical, not maudlin, sense — is also the organizing theme of Widder’s memoir.
A tomboy who dreamed of “swashbuckling” adventures, Widder broke her back climbing a tree around age 9. (She blames the frilly Sunday school dress her parents made her wear that day). In college, she decided to undergo surgery to repair her spine, but the operation went awry; for reasons unknown, her blood began clotting spontaneously, and she awoke “flipping around like a fish on a dock while hemorrhaging nearly everywhere.” She had to be resuscitated three times; at one point, she felt her mind leave her body. When she awoke again, blood had seeped into her eyeballs, and she was almost fully blind. During a long and painful convalescence, her sight gradually returned, and, with it, a newfound appreciation for the magic of light. “My obsession with bioluminescence grew out of my brush with blindness,” she writes. In truth, her path was somewhat less narratively satisfying; she originally set out to become a neurobiologist. But what began as a short stint in a lab studying bioluminescent dinoflagellates — a way to pass time and earn cash while her husband finished his degree — led to a career change and a lifelong fascination.
She grew to believe the phenomenon of “living light” is “the most important thing happening in the ocean.” And since the deep sea makes up more than 95 percent of the earth’s habitable space, in a sense, that also makes it the most important thing happening on the planet.
All kinds of creatures luminesce in all kinds of ways, for all kinds of reasons. Light is used as a lure, a weapon, a warning, a deception, a beacon and a sexual turn-on. Individual bacteria probably evolved to glow because it minimizes the radiation from UV light, which can damage DNA; en masse, their glow helps attract predators. (Bacteria, unlike fish, want to end up in a gut.) Anglerfish grow light bulbs that dangle from their foreheads, which they use as bait. When threatened, sea cucumbers will shuck a glowing layer of skin, creating spectral apparitions of themselves as a decoy. Some species spray their attackers with a burst of glittering light — fire-breathing shrimp, fire-shooting squids, shining tubeshoulder fish. In the higher reaches of the deep sea, where there is nowhere to hide, many fish have evolved to emit blue light, a trait known as counterillumination. The most numerous vertebrate on earth, the bristlemouth fish, uses this trick to blend into the sea itself.
Widder originally used submersibles to reach the twilight zone. A few mishaps with leaky valves nearly killed her. (At a certain depth, a terrifying feedback loop sets in: The water streaming in makes the vessel heavier, which means the vessel sinks deeper, which means more water pressure, which means more water streams in, ad infinitum, until the vessel either implodes or the diver drowns.) She began experiencing suffocation nightmares; once she awoke to find herself clawing at the bottom of the bunk above her, convinced it was a coffin lid. “Lousy sleep. Keep having dreams of entrapment and drowning,” she stoically wrote in her diary. Understandably, she shifted some of her attention to developing cameras (“new technological eyes,” she calls them) and lures, which could dive in her stead.
Perhaps her most successful co-invention was a glowing synthetic jellyfish known as the “E-jelly.” Using this lifelike bait, she managed to capture the first video of a giant squid in its natural habitat (which she deems “the holy grail” of her field of research). Her description of these excursions, and the resulting discoveries, provides a thrilling blend of hard science and high adventure.
Widder’s voice is in turns jaunty, precise and nerdily quippy. She occasionally resorts to cliché (“At that depth, the tiniest leak could create a high-pressure jet that would cut through my flesh like a hot knife through butter”), and her jokes don’t always land. But often the prose glints. In one of my favorite passages in the book, she describes the mating rituals of the anglerfish, those toothy monsters with the dangling headlamps:
“The male anglerfish is much smaller than his female counterpart. He lacks a lure and has no teeth for consuming prey. For many anglerfish species, the male’s only hope for continued existence is as a gigolo. In the unimaginably immense black void of the deep sea, he must somehow locate a potential mate, either visually or by smell, and upon finding her, seal the relationship with an eternal kiss by latching on to her flank, where his flesh fuses with hers. Her bloodstream then grows into his body, providing him with sustenance, in return for which he provides sperm upon demand. This lifetime commitment may sound romantic, but it’s not all hearts, flowers and pillow talk. He’s a bloodsucker and a sperm bag, and she’s ugly and weighs half a million times more than he does.”
Where Widder unfortunately falls short is in the final pages of the book, where she briefly addresses environmental threats to the ocean. She hews to the old and, increasingly, outdated maxim that alarmism will cause the public to shut down rather than perk up. Given the pending cascade of catastrophes that climate change threatens to inflict on the oceans (perhaps nowhere more so than on the deep sea, which studies show will warm faster than the surface), her cheery contention that a combination of optimism, exploration and education will solve the ocean’s problems rings hollow.
Thankfully, another new book more than makes up for this shortfall. “The Brilliant Abyss,” Helen Scales’s sweeping survey of the seafloor, is brave enough to risk a darker and, in some ways, more satisfying tone.
The deep sea that Scales portrays is a largely unseen realm that is continually being plundered, often by people who have little notion of what they are destroying. Between the two writers, Scales is the more graceful storyteller, but Widder has (by far) the more compelling story to tell. Indeed, Scales’s conceit — of traveling aboard a research vessel for a couple of weeks in the Gulf of Mexico — feels a bit thin, and not just by comparison to Widder’s heroics. She never physically ventures into the abyss, as Widder did, and as a fellow science writer, James Nestor, did in his excellent 2014 book, “Deep.” (In one nape-tingling chapter, he describes traveling to a depth of 2,500 feet in “a homemade, unlicensed submarine” cobbled together by a New Jersey eccentric.) But for its shortcomings, “The Brilliant Abyss” has many virtues. Scales’s great gift is for transmuting our awe at the wonders of the deep sea into a kind of quiet rage that they could soon be no more.
In one of the book’s most appalling chapters, she describes the sad fate of the orange roughy, a remarkably slow-growing, deep-dwelling fish. Formerly known as the slimehead, the species was rebranded in the 1970s to better appeal to consumers. Demand spiked, and a “gold rush mentality” ensued. Trawl nets were dragged along the seafloor, hauling up not just roughies, but also the wreckage of coral reefs — “millennia-old, animal-grown forests” — which were tossed overboard as bycatch. Predictably, the fish population quickly collapsed, and they — and the ecosystems that were razed to catch them — have yet to return to their former vigor.
Scales excoriates not just the killers of the orange roughy, but the entire industry. Globally, she writes, deep-sea trawlers pull in profits of just $60 million a year, and yet they receive subsidies of $152 million. “If it costs so much, provides so little food, and reaps such huge ecological damage, the glaring question is, why trawl for fish in the deep at all?” Scales asks. Some have begun calling for a global ban on deep-sea trawling. Scales goes a step further. Looking into the future, where the mining of rare earth metals and the dumping of carbon in the deep sea promise to become lucrative (if destructive) industries, she urges us to err on the side of preservation: no deep-sea mining, fishing, oil drilling or extraction of any kind. The deep, she argues, is too vulnerable, and too crucial to the working of the planet to blindly ransack. (Among other things, the ocean acts as an enormous carbon sequestration device, one we are determinedly, if inadvertently, breaking.)
She concludes: “If industrialists and powerful states have their way, and the deep is opened up to them, then it raises the ironic and dismal prospect that the deep sea will become empty and lifeless, just as people once thought it was.”
Comparisons are often made between the deep sea and the cosmos. One obvious difference between the two is that the abyss below teems with life. Another is that, unlike the stars, the twinkling lights of the deep sea are hidden from view. “As soon as you stop thinking about it, the deep can so easily vanish out of mind,” Scales warns. She and Widder have worked hard to bring the abyss to light. It is our duty, as clumsy land-bound dwellers of a water planet, to look, and to remember.
Robert Moor is the author of “On Trails: An Exploration.”