Read the full PSL statement on the recall election at:
Why We Go to Creech…
Shut Down Creech, Fall Action Week
Sun, Sept 26th - Sat, Oct 2ndPlease Join Us!
Why We Go to Creech…
Shut Down Creech, Fall Action Week
Sun, Sept 26th - Sat, Oct 2nd
Please Join Us!
Ajmal Ahmadi weeps alone in a room after 10 members of his family, including 6 children were killed in a U.S. drone strike in Kabul, Afghanistan on August 29, 2021. (Photo: Marcus Yam/Los Angeles Times):
Did you hear about the 3 Afghan toddler girls whose flesh was ripped to pieces by a U.S. Drone Strike last Sunday? Striking in a Kabul NEIGHBORHOOD, the attack also killed 4 other children, including 2 more under 6 years old! The grief on Amal Ahmadi’s face tells it all! 10 civilian family members dead, 7 of them children, body parts everywhere, and bodies unrecognizable. It was a horrific and tragic scene.
And then there was last Friday’s U.S. drone strike in Nangarhar Province that U.S. officials claimed killed two “high profile" ISIS-K targets.” A witness reported, “…rickshaws were burning. Children and women were wounded and one man, one boy and one woman had been killed on the spot.”
OFFICIALS LIE...CHILDREN, WOMEN AND MEN DIE!
WE MUST UNITE TO STOP THIS RACIST U.S. DRONE TERROR IN THE SKY.
Information about Programs & Activities, Housing & Transportation, Camp Justice, Meals, and Sponsorship & Support can be found on our website at <http://shutdowncreech.blogspot.com>.
Mobilize and Defend Our Reproductive Rights
On October 2, we're marching in every single state ahead of the Supreme Court reconvening on October 4. Women's March and more than 90 other organizations, including National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, Planned Parenthood, SHERO Mississippi, Mississippi in Action, Access Reproductive Care-Southeast, The Frontline, Working Families Party, and SisterSong, are organizing a national call to mobilize and defend our reproductive rights.
Abortion has never been fully accessible, but we are at the risk of losing our reproductive freedom completely. The call to action is clear, and urgent. The relentless attacks from Texas to Mississippi are ramping up quickly. Anti-choice extremists have a deep desire to return to a time when there was more clear and effective domination and control over queer and trans folks, women, and people of color; they want to revive those old values and societal norms to the point of re-acceptance. The authoritarian agenda of reproductive control is fueled by misogyny and racism - and we must challenge it, together.
On October 2, we’re going to send the Supreme Court and lawmakers across the country a clear, unified message. The attack on our reproductive rights will not be tolerated.
We have this opportunity to invite all the people that know us and love us into this important movement and work united as we build something better for our families and communities. As a small powerful group tries to come for our human rights over and over again, we’ll never let go of our vision of reproductive justice; for unfettered abortion access and everything we need to support and grow our families to thrive and live healthy lives.
This is your fight. This is our fight. This impacts all of us. Take the pledge today.
Rise up wherever you are on October 2.
Link to Registration:
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.
To: U.S. Senate, U.S. House of Representatives
Sign Petition at:
A BRILLIANT, BRAVE, BLACK POLITICAL JOURNALIST
PLEASE CALL AND EMAIL ON BEHALF OF KEVIN RASHID JOHNSON!
Jalil Muntaqim in the 2000 documentary, "Jalil Muntaqim: Voice of Liberation" by Freedom Archives on Vimeo
I call upon all those who identify themselves as progressive to recognize the U.S. prison system is an institution generally operated by white supremacists. This has been my experience in both California and New York State prison systems. In fact, on December 4th and 5th, 2016, the New York Times did a two day expose informing NYS prison system is run by white racists. However, among the many prison systems that function as a bastion of white supremacy, Lucasville, Ohio, is one of the worst in the country.
It is under these conditions that Kevin Rashid Johnson, a staunch advocate for the abolition of prisons is presently being threatened with the loss of his life. Being held in 23 hour lockdown, Rashid, is now in the worst condition of his life, locked away in a system of rabid racists that hate him for being a New Afrikan, a brilliant artist, a revolutionary and anti-capitalist imperialist. Since being transferred to Lucasville Rashid has been threatened, his personal property damaged and/or not given to him and must constantly be vigilant from being assaulted or murdered either by prison guards or their flunkies who mindlessly function as tools of white supremacy.
I am petitioning to the entire Progressive community to unite, to band together and say to the world… we will not permit Lucasville to murder Kevin Rashid Johnson. I am asking every single one of you to call the Governor of Ohio and demand Rashid be immediately transferred out of the notorious Lucasville prison. I ask that all of you contact the major Ohio newspapers and news outlets and urge them to find out why Kevin Rashid Johnson’s life is being threatened. We, collectively, need to shine a spotlight on Kevin Rashid Johnson, and let all know Rashid belongs to the people, that progressive people around the world support him and refuse to sit idle and let Rashid be murdered in Lucasville, Ohio!!!
To contact Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine: Call the governor’s office at 614-466-3555.
You will be prompted to go to his website to write out your message at:
Do that, but ALSO LEAVE A PHONE MESSAGE:
Tell the governor to transfer Kevin Johnson, A787991, out of Lucasville Prison immediately before he is murdered!
Remember: We Are Our Own Liberators
Jalil A. Muntaqim
Jalil A. Muntaqim, legendary analyst, theorist and stategist, author of We Are Our Own Liberators, veteran of the Black Panther Party and the Black Liberation Army, co-founder of the Jericho Movement, born in Oakland, raised in San Francisco, survived 49 years in prison, from 1971 to Oct. 7, 2020. Learn about his current campaign at SpiritofMandela.organd join in preparations for the International Tribunal on Oct. 22-25, when “We Charge Genocide” again.
My letter on behalf of Rashid:
“I am very concerned about the health and safety of Mr. Johnson currently at Lucasville prison. Not only is he being held in 23-hour-lockdown, his belongings withheld from him, but he is being threatened with murder by guards. This is intolerable! He must be transferred immediately from that notoriously racist prison. Just in the last year he has been transferred from Virginia, to Oregon, Texas, Indiana and now, Ohio.
“There are many who are aware of what is happening to Mr. Johnson and who support his writings on the injustices prison inmates experience in this racist prison system.
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 𝙞𝙣𝙨𝙩𝙧𝙪𝙘𝙩𝙚𝙙 𝙣𝙤𝙩 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
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* 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 𝙖𝙧𝙚 𝙨𝙪𝙥𝙥𝙤𝙨𝙚𝙙 𝙩𝙤 𝙝𝙖𝙫𝙚 𝙖𝙡𝙡 𝙩𝙝𝙚 𝙧𝙞𝙜𝙝𝙩𝙨 𝙤𝙛 𝙑𝘼 𝙥𝙧𝙞𝙨𝙤𝙣𝙚𝙧𝙨. 𝙍𝙖𝙨𝙝𝙞𝙙 𝙬𝙖𝙨 𝙤𝙧𝙞𝙜𝙞𝙣𝙖𝙡𝙡𝙮 𝙞𝙣𝙘𝙖𝙧𝙘𝙚𝙧𝙖𝙩𝙚𝙙 𝙞𝙣 𝙑𝘼 𝙗𝙚𝙛𝙤𝙧𝙚 𝙩𝙧𝙖𝙣𝙨𝙛𝙚𝙧𝙨 𝙩𝙤 𝙊𝙧𝙚𝙜𝙤𝙣, 𝙏𝙚𝙭𝙖𝙨, 𝙁𝙡𝙤𝙧𝙞𝙙𝙖, 𝙄𝙣𝙙𝙞𝙖𝙣𝙖, 𝙖𝙣𝙙 𝙣𝙤𝙬 𝙊𝙝𝙞𝙤.
Our mailing address is:
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Freedom for Major Tillery! End his Life Imprisonment!
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
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
Two decades after the attack on New York City, the Police Department is using counterterrorism tools and tactics to combat routine street crime.
By Ali Watkins, Sept. 8, 2021
Derrick Ingram was accused of speaking into a bullhorn near an officer at a protest. The police descended on his home with a response he said would have been appropriate for a terror attack. Credit...Laila Stevens for The New York Times
It was an unusual forearm tattoo that the police said led them to Luis Reyes, a 35-year-old man who was accused of stealing packages from a Manhattan building’s mailroom in 2019.
But the truth was more complicated: Mr. Reyes had first been identified by the New York Police Department’s powerful facial recognition software as it analyzed surveillance video of the crime.
His guilty plea earlier this year was not solely the result of keen-eyed detectives practicing old school police work. Instead, it was part of the sprawling legacy of one of the city’s darkest days.
Since the fall of the World Trade Center, the security apparatus borne from the Sept. 11 attack on the city has fundamentally changed the way the country’s largest police department operates, altering its approach to finding and foiling terror threats, but also to cracking minor cases like Mr. Reyes’s.
New Yorkers simply going about their daily lives routinely encounter post-9/11 digital surveillance tools like facial recognition software, license plate readers or mobile X-ray vans that can see through car doors. Surveillance drones hover above mass demonstrations and protesters say they have been questioned by antiterrorism officers after marches. The department’s Intelligence Division, redesigned in 2002 to confront Al Qaeda operatives, now uses antiterror tactics to fight gang violence and street crime.
Policing technology has always advanced along with the world at large. And the police have long used surveillance cameras to find suspects caught on video, publicizing images of people and asking the public for help identifying them. But both supporters and critics of the shift say it is almost impossible to overstate how profoundly the attacks changed American policing — perhaps most acutely in New York, which lost 23 of its own officers that day, and hundreds more from 9/11-related illnesses in the years since.
The Police Department has poured resources into expanding its surveillance capabilities. The department’s budget for intelligence and counterterrorism has more than quadrupled, spending more than $3 billion since 2006, and more through funding streams that are difficult to quantify, including federal grants and the secretive Police Foundation, a nonprofit that funnels money and equipment to the department from benefactors and donors.
Current and former police officials say the tools have been effective in thwarting dozens of would-be attacks. And the department has an obligation, they say, to repurpose its counterterrorism tools for everyday crime fighting.
“It’s what everybody would want us to be doing,” said John Miller, the deputy commissioner for the Police Department’s Intelligence and Counterterrorism Bureaus, “instead of just saying, ‘Well, these were just for counterterrorism. So if it’s not a bombing we’re not going to use them. I’m sorry you got mugged.’”
But others say the prevalence of the department’s technological arsenal subjects ordinary New Yorkers to near-constant surveillance — a burden that falls more heavily on people of color. According to one estimate from a recent analysis by Amnesty International that was shared with The New York Times, a person attending a protest between Washington Square Park and Sixth Avenue — a common route through the park and into the city for protests after the death of George Floyd last summer — would be captured on the police department’s array of Argus video cameras for about 80 percent of their march.
Eric Adams, the Brooklyn borough president and the heavy favorite to become the city’s next mayor, said in an interview that he intends to audit and re-evaluate how counterterrorism and surveillance resources are deployed and used in the city.
“I’m a believer in using technology to keep us safe,” said Mr. Adams, a former New York City police captain. “I don’t believe in using technology to dismantle our rights that exist in our country.”
‘We’ve created a monster’
Derrick Ingram remembers the laser — that red dot, hovering in his bedroom, trained there by an armed police officer posted across the courtyard from his apartment last summer.
“It was one of the most intense experiences,” he said.
The police had identified Mr. Ingram using facial recognition tools they applied to his Instagram profile, intercepted his phone calls and used drones to peer inside his apartment. Dozens of officers descended. The response seemed suited to a terror threat, Mr. Ingram said.
But Mr. Ingram, an organizer and activist, was not a terror suspect. Officers were seeking him in connection with his participation in a protest, where they said he spoke through a bullhorn near the ear of a patrolwoman, causing her temporary hearing loss. He would later be charged with assault of a police officer — a case that was subsequently dropped.
The intensity of the police operation was shocking, Mr. Ingram said.
“It kind of felt stupid. I felt like it was a waste of taxpayer money and funds,” Mr. Ingram said. “We’ve created a monster that’s kind of always existed within America, but we’ve given that monster — because of 9/11, because of other terrorist attacks and things that have happened — unquestionable, unchecked power.”
Safeguards meant to limit the police’s ability to monitor political activity were suspended. Thousands of additional cameras and license plate readers were installed around Manhattan, part of the Lower and Midtown Manhattan Security Initiatives.
Only recently — because of a law passed by the City Council last summer, to police officials’ dismay — did the breadth of the Police Department’s surveillance dragnet begin to become clear. The law, known as the POST Act, requires the department to provide a public accounting of its post-9/11 technological arsenal.
Police officials have proven reluctant to fully comply with the transparency requirements, and have historically kept such expenditures secret even from the city’s own comptroller. But according to figures maintained by the city’s Independent Budget Office, the Police Department’s spending on intelligence and counterterrorism nearly quadrupled between 2006 and 2021, up to $349 million from $83 million in 2006, the earliest year for which the office keeps data.
For a department that was running entire precinct houses on single computers at the time of the attacks, the expansion has been stunning, said Raymond W. Kelly, whose second stint as New York Police Department commissioner began just months after the attacks. Mr. Kelly led a frantic, rapid effort to bring the department up to speed.
“We brought in thousands of computers and lots of other technology to try to get the department into the 21st century,” Mr. Kelly said in an interview.
He challenged the notion that the surveillance apparatus in New York troubled many residents; most Americans are used to having their pictures taken even while shopping in a department store, he said.
“Your picture was probably taken 30 times while you were in that store,” said Mr. Kelly. “I don’t think the average person has the concern about privacy that many of these activist groups have.”
In documents released earlier this year, the police acknowledged their use of a vast network of license plate readers, thousands of surveillance cameras, mobile X-ray vans and digital tools that are used to scrub social media profiles and retain deleted information. Much of the resulting data can be collected and stored without a warrant.
The tactics have become ubiquitous in criminal cases, including investigations of low-level crime. Asked to identify recent cases in which the police used such surveillance measures, public defenders from across the city said it was difficult to think of one that had not.
“My office defends tens of thousands of cases each year, and I would be shocked if we have a single case of any level of severity that did not include some form of surveillance technology,” said Elizabeth Vasquez, the director of the science and surveillance project at Brooklyn Defender Services.
Most often used, lawyers say, is the Police Department’s Domain Awareness System, which fuses data from several different surveillance tools — license plate readers, closed-circuit television streams, images that can be analyzed with facial recognition software, or phone call histories — and associates the data with a person or address.
The department has acknowledged that the platform was not developed as a crime-fighting tool, but rather, has been repurposed into one: “Originally designed as a counterterrorism platform, D.A.S. is now a program that aggregates a substantial quantity of the information N.Y.P.D. personnel use to make strategic and tactical decisions,” read a draft policy paper posted on the department’s website.
The police say safeguards exist around the information that the department collects — warrants, for example, are sometimes required to query stored data, and facial recognition software cannot be the sole reason for an arrest. But civil liberties advocates say the kaleidoscopic data network collected by the police has effectively turned the city into a surveillance state, even for law-abiding New Yorkers.
Donna Lieberman, the executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, said her organization was already concerned with creeping police surveillance in the 1990s; not long before the attacks, the group had mapped out every camera they could find in the city. In hindsight, she said, the exercise would prove naïve.
“We made a map, and we had dots — we had pins at that time — where there were cameras. And when we did that, there were a couple of thousand,” Ms. Lieberman said. “We repeated the survey at some point after 9/11, and there were too many cameras to count.”
The remaking of the intelligence division
In the months and years after Sept. 11, the Police Department under Mr. Kelly set about building a system that would protect the city from another attack.
The department established a counterterrorism bureau and remade its intelligence division, including the so-called Demographics Unit — a secretive police unit that kept tabs on Muslim New Yorkers, even without evidence of a crime.
“The theory was, in the course of regular policing, police officers around the country would run across little bits of information that, when added to other kinds of information, would potentially reveal terrorist plots in the making,” said Faiza Patel, the director for the Brennan Center’s Liberty and National Security Program, which researches the intersection of civil liberties and surveillance. “In order to do that, they really lowered the threshold for information collection.”
The department still defends its practices, but later settled a lawsuit alleging it had illegally spied on Muslim New Yorkers, and officials say it no longer employs the kinds of demographic surveillance it used following the Sept. 11 attacks. Today, many of the division’s resources have returned to tracking gang conflicts and gun crime (it also maintains a division to track extremist groups).
Still, the scars from the surveillance of Muslim New Yorkers remain, and the policing methods behind it — data collection and intelligence-gathering — have stuck.
Mr. Ingram, the activist who was arrested after a Black Lives Matter protest against racism in policing, was one of several people involved in last summer’s demonstrations who said they were eventually interviewed by city and federal counterterrorism officers.
“When the definition of ‘terrorism’ becomes anyone you don’t agree with, that’s utterly terrifying,” said Hannah Shaw, who was arrested during a protest last summer and turned over to federal antiterrorism agents for questioning.
Police departments were already beginning to develop surveillance technology before the Sept. 11 attacks, said Fritz Umbach, a history professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice.
“There’s certainly more police presence,” Mr. Umbach said. “That is an ongoing trend that predates 9/11. It continues for reasons that have nothing to do with terrorism.”
What has changed, he said, is the tools that police have at their disposal.
“Government funding developed these tools for war and then they get repurposed for policing,” he said. “And that’s a real issue.”
For those in law enforcement who lived through the pressure of a post-9/11 world in New York, the nexus between counterterror work and policing street crime seemed a natural progression.
“It’s hard to explain sometimes how difficult the work was early on, with all the threats that we were facing, and the expectation that we were going to stop every single thing,” said Carlos Fernandez, a former F.B.I. agent in charge of counterterrorism in New York City who worked closely with the Police Department after Sept. 11. “That was a very challenging environment to work in.”
The tools developed in the aftermath of the attacks proved to be useful in fighting street crime too, Mr. Fernandez said.
“I think to a large degree it’s been very beneficial,” Mr. Fernandez said. “But without the proper checks and balances, anything that’s good can also be used for bad reasons.”
By Linda Greenhouse, Sept. 9, 2021https://www.nytimes.com/2021/09/09/opinion/abortion-supreme-court-religion.html
One hundred fifty years ago, a woman named Myra Bradwell brought a Supreme Court case claiming a constitutional right to be admitted to the Illinois bar. She had passed the state’s bar exam with high honors, but the Illinois Supreme Court refused her application, saying that when the State Legislature gave the court the power to grant law licenses, “it was with not the slightest expectation that this privilege would be extended to women.”
The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the state court, with Justice Joseph Bradley writing in a concurring opinion that “the paramount destiny and mission of woman are to fulfill the noble and benign offices of wife and mother.”
“This,” Justice Bradley explained, “is the law of the Creator.”
The case of Bradwell v. Illinois is regarded today as a low point in Supreme Court history, at least by those of us who reject the notion of God as the ultimate personnel administrator. But it turns out that God has a role in the country’s civic life after all: that of supreme legislator.
Republican politicians used to offer secular rationales for their anti-abortion zealotry: They claimed that abortion hurt women or that abortion procedures demeaned the medical profession. In the early months of the Covid-19 pandemic, some opportunistic states imposed temporary bans on abortion, making the demonstrably false assertion that abortion patients would take up scarce hospital beds.
But now, sensing the wind at their backs and the Supreme Court on their side, Republican officeholders are no longer coy about their religion-driven mission to stop abortion. In May, when Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas signed S.B. 8, the vigilante bill that bans abortion after six weeks of pregnancy, he claimed that “our creator endowed us with the right to life, and yet millions of children lose their right to life every year because of abortion. In Texas we work to save those lives.” (There are actually fewer than one million abortions a year in the United States, but let’s not get picky with the facts.)
Two years earlier, signing a bill that criminalized nearly all abortions in Alabama, Gov. Kay Ivey called the measure a “testament to Alabamians’ deeply held belief that every life is precious and that every life is a sacred gift from God.”
And this year, a Republican state senator in Arkansas, Jason Rapert, declared in explaining his sponsorship of a bill to ban nearly all abortions that “there’s six things God hates, and one of those is people who shed innocent blood,” as if it were self-evident that he was referring to abortion rather than to the “stand your ground” bill that he co-sponsored.
I could go on with this list, but these examples are sufficient to raise the question for those of us not on board with the theocratizing of America: Who let God into the legislative chamber?
The answer is that we did. Our silence has turned us into enablers of those who are now foisting their religious beliefs on a country founded on opposition to an established church.
The Supreme Court has come in for plenty of well-deserved criticism for last week’s midnight maneuver allowing Texas to enforce its new abortion law. The fact that the four of the court’s six Roman Catholic justices and a fifth who was raised Catholic but is now Episcopalian, all conservative, allowed a blatantly unconstitutional law to remain in place pending appeal has barely been noted publicly. (Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who are also Catholic, joined with two other justices in dissent.)
The five who voted for Texas (and the chief justice) were placed on the court by Republican presidents who ran on a party platform that called for the appointment of judges who would overturn Roe v. Wade. Those presidents may well have calculated that the religious background of their nominees would incline them to oppose abortion, sparing those presidents from asking a direct question that their nominees would be bound not to answer.
When Amy Coney Barrett was a law professor at Notre Dame, the university’s Faculty for Life, of which she was a member, unanimously denounced the university’s decision to honor then-Vice President Joe Biden, a Catholic, with an award recognizing “outstanding service to church and society.” The faculty group’s specific objection was to his support for the right to abortion. “Saying that Mr. Biden rejects church teaching could make it sound like he is merely disobeying the rules of his religious group,” the Faculty for Life’s resolution stated. “But the church’s teaching about the sanctity of life is true.”
Justice Barrett’s personal religious views are, of course, her personal business, but her support of this aggressive public intervention into a matter of public concern was fair game for questions, or should have been. It remained, however, far under the radar during the unseemly sprint to her Supreme Court confirmation.
Religion is American society’s last taboo. We can talk about sexual identity, gender nonconformity, all manner of topics once considered too intimate for open discussion. But we have yet to find deft and effective ways to question the role of religion in a public official’s political or judicial agenda without opening ourselves to accusations of being anti-religious.
The Mississippi abortion case the Supreme Court will hear this fall (the date has not been set) has attracted nearly 80 briefs in support of the state’s defense of its ban on abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy and its request that the justices overturn Roe v. Wade. Well over half of the briefs are from organizations and individuals with overtly religious identities. Many of the remainder have more subtle affiliations with the religious right.
That shouldn’t be surprising. What reason other than religious doctrine is there, really, for turning back the clock on a decision that nearly a half-century ago freed women from the choice between the terror of the back alley and the tyranny of enforced motherhood? About one-third of Americans, according to a recent Gallup poll, want the court to overturn Roe. And yet, as we saw last week, the right to abortion is already functionally dead in Texas, and its fate may soon be left to the whims of Republican politicians everywhere else. It’s incumbent on the rest of us to call out those who invoke God as their legislative drafting partner.
The major step that Mexico’s Supreme Court took this week toward decriminalizing abortion in that country, which is predominantly Catholic, raises the head-snapping prospect of Texas women traveling across the border for legal abortions, as many did for illegal ones in the years before Roe v. Wade. The bishops denounced the court’s unanimous ruling, of course, but antipathy toward the church’s power over civic affairs is part of Mexico’s DNA.
In this country, the clash between church and state over abortion is an old story. Thirty-seven years ago, one of the country’s most prominent Catholic public officials, Gov. Mario Cuomo of New York, was caught up in a debate with the church over his support for using public money to pay for abortions for poor women. The Supreme Court had recently upheld the Hyde Amendment, which cut off federal Medicaid funding for that purpose. But states remained free to spend their own money, and New York had chosen to do so. On Sept. 13, 1984, Mr. Cuomo addressed the controversy, defending the state’s policy in a speech at Notre Dame that he titled “Religious Belief and Public Morality: A Catholic Governor’s Perspective.”
While he accepted the church’s teaching on abortion as a matter of personal belief, he said, “there is no church teaching that mandates the best political course for making our belief everyone’s rule.”
He went on:
The hard truth is that abortion isn’t a failure of government. No agency or department of government forces women to have abortions, but abortion goes on. Catholics, the statistics show, support the right to abortion in equal proportion to the rest of the population. Despite the teaching in our homes and schools and pulpits, despite the sermons and pleadings of parents and priests and prelates, despite all the effort at defining our opposition to the sin of abortion, collectively we Catholics apparently believe — and perhaps act — little differently from those who don’t share our commitment. Are we asking government to make criminal what we believe to be sinful because we ourselves can’t stop committing the sin?
(What was true in 1984 remains true; Catholic women obtain nearly one-quarter of U.S. abortions, roughly proportional to their representation in the population.)
“Persuading, not coercing” had to be the goal “in our unique pluralistic democracy,” the governor said. “And we can do it even as politicians.”
It was a remarkable performance, reminiscent of John F. Kennedy’s speech to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association during the 1960 presidential campaign, in which he sought to reassure skeptical Protestant clergy members about his candidacy. “I am not the Catholic candidate for president,” he told the ministers. “I am the Democratic Party’s candidate for president who happens also to be a Catholic. I do not speak for my church on public matters — and the church does not speak for me.”
A generation separated the Kennedy and Cuomo speeches, and a generation or more has passed since Mr. Cuomo’s declaration of independence at the University of Notre Dame. As the country lurches toward theocracy, we need voices like those more than ever.
By Ady Barkan, September 8, 2021
Barkan is a co-founder of Be a Hero, a political advocacy organization fighting for health care justice. He was diagnosed with A.L.S. in 2016.https://www.nytimes.com/2021/09/08/opinion/als-home-health-care.html
Five years ago, I went to sleep each night thinking I was the luckiest and happiest person I knew. I was 32 and had a brilliant wife, an adorable infant son and a fulfilling career organizing for social justice. We owned a house in paradisiacal Santa Barbara, Calif. Then I was given a death sentence.
I was told I had amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or A.L.S., a mysterious neurological illness. I asked my doctor how long I could expect to live. He said three to four years.
Today I am nearly completely paralyzed and am typing these words using technology that follows the movement of my eyes, which are the one body part that I am still able to control well. I have a breathing tube implanted in my windpipe, and to compensate for my failing diaphragm, I’m hooked up to a ventilator 24 hours a day. I am fed through a small hole in my belly.
Living with A.L.S. can be horrendous. But I have a beautiful life. I laugh every day, and I am never depressed. I am still organizing for social justice. My life is good because I live at home with my wife, Rachael, and our two young kids. Most nights before dinner, my toddler, Willow, sits on my lap, and we watch “Sesame Street.” Although I’m not the father I had hoped to be, I’m grateful for each moment with my children. And it’s all possible because I have 24-hour home care.
I can afford this care only because I forced my health insurance company to pay for most of it and we have some very wealthy friends who cover the rest. Private health insurance rarely covers home care. Neither does Medicare. My team of seven caregivers is skilled, reliable and very stable. And that is possible only because we pay them well above the low market rates. Without home care, I would have to be in a nursing home to stay alive. And to be honest, I don’t know if that would be a quality of life that I would be willing to tolerate.
In Japan, where health care is guaranteed, one study found that people with A.L.S. were much more likely to choose to go on a ventilator to extend their life as people with the disease in the United States. This means more Americans with A.L.S. opt to die. I argue it’s because home care is prohibitively expensive and life in a nursing home is so miserable. My doctor’s initial prognosis was based on the assumption that I would not undergo a tracheotomy and receive the home care necessary to survive with a ventilator.
Home care is literally keeping me alive. But across the country, almost a million children, adults and seniors with disabilities sit on waiting lists for Medicaid’s home- and community-based care, in danger of being removed from their homes and sent to live in institutions.
In his jobs and infrastructure plan introduced this year, President Biden proposed $400 billion for home- and community-based care. That’s what’s needed to clear the 820,000-person waiting list and provide professional caregivers — the majority of whom are women of color — with better wages. Funding for home care would also give new choices to the one-tenth of caregivers — most of whom are women — who were forced to leave their paid jobs or retire early to take care of a loved one.
The significantly scaled-back bipartisan version of this plan eliminated the president’s proposal for in-home care funding. Republicans did not support the president’s original proposal, and even some conservative Democrats said we cannot afford it. The fate of the funding now depends on how hard the president, Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer and Speaker Nancy Pelosi fight for that commitment.
Most people want to stay in their homes and communities as they age, so fully funding home care is a matter of ensuring everyone has the choice to live at home. During the Covid-19 pandemic, about 134,000 nursing home residents have died from the disease.
The pandemic has shown the urgent need to transform America’s social contract. We are the richest nation in the history of the world. We have money for endless wars, a Space Force and tax cuts for billionaires. But when it comes to ensuring everyone has basic health care, we can’t seem to scrape together the money.
Our time on this earth is the most precious resource we have. And yet America’s misplaced national choices are depriving millions of disabled people and our loved ones of invaluable years and priceless days.
Recently, with the help of my wonderful home caregiver Izzy, I took my son, Carl, to basketball practice for the first time. When we got home and continued shooting hoops in the driveway, I wept tears of joy. After I was diagnosed, when Carl was only 4 months old, I didn’t think that I would ever get to watch him learn to dribble. But thanks to my caregivers, I can tolerate my paralysis, and I was able to do just that.
It’s now been five years since I was diagnosed, and Carl is old enough to form memories that will last the rest of his life. He will remember me even after I’m gone. But I am not gone yet. And every day, thanks to my home care, I experience the deep love of my children and family. Everyone deserves as much.
By Jay S. Kaufman, September 10, 2021
Dr. Kaufman is a professor of epidemiology at McGill University. He was recently the president of the Society for Epidemiologic Research.https://www.nytimes.com/2021/09/10/opinion/covid-science-trust-us.html
In the winter of 1848, a 26-year-old Prussian pathologist named Rudolf Virchow was sent to investigate a typhus epidemic raging in Upper Silesia, in what is now mostly Poland.
After three weeks of meticulous observation of the stricken populace — during which he carefully counted typhus cases and deaths by age, sex, occupation and social class — he returned with a 190-page report that ultimately blamed poverty and social exclusion for the epidemic and deemed it an unnecessary crisis. “I am convinced that if you changed these conditions, the epidemic would not recur,” he wrote.
Dr. Virchow was only a few years out of medical school, but his report became the foundational document of the new discipline of social medicine. His vision for health went far beyond individuals and the pathogens lurking inside them: He pioneered the careful epidemiological examination of social conditions such as housing, education, diet and lifestyle, and he denounced the rigid social stratification perpetuated at the time by the Catholic Church.
The same conditions of inequality that produced the Silesian typhus epidemic would soon foment a political revolution in Germany, and Dr. Virchow’s investigation helped turn him into a political revolutionary. “Medicine is social science and politics nothing but medicine on a grand scale,” he wrote.
For epidemiologists studying the coronavirus today, that scale is still gauged by the mundane act of counting. The counting starts with descriptive statistics on the daily state of the pandemic — who’s infected, who’s sick, how many have died. And then those numbers are used to forecast the pandemic’s future, which lets officials plan and mobilize resources. Epidemiologists use those data to discern patterns over time and among different groups of people and determine reasons for why some get sick and others don’t. That’s the hard part of epidemiology.
We know that the SARS-CoV-2 virus is the cause of Covid-19, and in that sense the story is very simple. But why does one exposed person get infected and not another? Despite more than 200 million detected cases worldwide, scientists still don’t understand much about transmission, nor what makes an infected person sick enough to be hospitalized, beyond simple demographics like age and sex.
Nearly half a million scientific papers have now been published on Covid-19, and they marshal a dizzying array of hypotheses to explain the patterns observed, but a vast majority of those conjectures quickly fizzle out. Numerous studies early on noted the relative absence of Covid-19 cases in Africa and South Asia, for example, leading to many environmental, genetic and behavioral conjectures, until suddenly African countries and India also were devastated by soaring caseloads. Thus so many epidemiological theories came and went, such as the impacts of altitude and blood type. But one consistent association held on, and it’s the same one that Dr. Virchow found in Upper Silesia: Our current pandemic is socially patterned.
This remains one of the few pervasive observations that consistently describes risks of infection, hospitalizations and death from Covid-19 around the world. Yet while wealth correlates with those who can work from home and order groceries online in rich countries, it explains less well the patterns among larger aggregations of people across states and nations. At this level, it appears that the more salient features that distinguish pandemic severity are relational factors like economic equality and social trust. It comes as no surprise to even the casual observer that the pandemic struck most ferociously in countries ridden with political division and social conflict.
For example, consider the number of excess deaths across countries during the pandemic. Looking at those countries most severely affected, such as Peru, Bolivia, South Africa and Brazil, one sees mostly middle-income countries in political turmoil and with weak social institutions. Countries that had fewer deaths than would be expected based on prepandemic trends, on the other hand, are often richer, but also distinguished by high levels of political cohesiveness, social trust, income equality and collectivism, like New Zealand, Taiwan, Norway, Iceland, Japan, Singapore and Denmark. Many investigators have reached similar conclusions in research within and among countries on measures of political polarization, social capital, trust in government and income inequality.
It makes sense that political polarization hampers effective pandemic response, but this is where explanatory inference gets trickiest, because we epidemiologists exist like everyone else inside the social forces that shape the pandemic. We are citizens as well as scientists, none of us immune to politicization and the way that it distorts perceptions and inferences.
For example, how did the effectiveness of a drug like hydroxychloroquine became a political litmus test, rather than a question for dispassionate clinical study? Nothing is gained when basic scientific and policy questions become ideological footballs to be inflated and tossed around. The United States is the dominant biomedical research entity in the world, and so its flagrant political dysfunction became a global problem. This infused everything that we epidemiologists did with doubt, suspicion and the whiff of partisanship.
Politics has dogged us at every turn in these past 18 months — astonishing failings at the C.D.C. and F.D.A. under political appointees, the politicization of proven interventions like masks and vaccines, and more. Take the return to in-person schooling. By April 2020, over three-quarters of the world’s schoolchildren were at home, yet we quickly learned enough to safely reopen schools for younger children — with measures like masking and ventilation — and this is indeed what happened in much of Canada, Europe and Asia.
But that progress from evidence to policy hit a brick wall in the United States when the Trump administration aggressively promoted resumption of in-person schooling as a crucial step toward economic recovery. When the former president threw his weight behind the priority that children should be back in classrooms, blue-state politicians, teachers unions and many epidemiologists were adamantly opposed. Rational discourse about the policy question became all but impossible. Every interpretation of evidence became colored by the suspicion that it was in the service of a political allegiance.
Science is a social process, and we all live amid the social soup of personalities, parties and power. The political dysfunction that holds America hostage also holds science hostage. Dr. Virchow wrote that “mass disease means that society is out of joint.” Society’s being out of joint means that epidemiological research is out of joint, because it exists inside the same society. This is not a new problem, but the dominant “follow the science” mantra misses the fact that the same social pathology that exacerbates the pandemic also debilitates our scientific response to it.
To restore faith in science, there must be faith in social institutions more broadly, and this requires a political reckoning. Of course one can cite many specific challenges for scientists: The wheels are coming off the peer review system, university research is plagued by commercialization pressures, and so on. But all of these are the symptoms, not the underlying disease. The real problem is simply that sick societies have sick institutions. Science is not some cloistered preserve in the clouds, but is buried in the muck with everything else. This is why, just eight days after his investigation in Upper Silesia, Dr. Virchow went to the barricades in Berlin to fight for the revolution.
U.S. officials said a Reaper drone followed a car for hours and then fired based on evidence it was carrying explosives. But in-depth video analysis and interviews at the site cast doubt on that account.
Reported by Matthieu Aikins, Christoph Koettl, Evan Hill and Eric SchmittWritten by Matthieu Aikins, Published Sept. 10, 2021, Updated Sept. 11, 2021
“While the U.S. military said the drone strike might have killed three civilians, Times reporting shows that it killed 10, including seven children, in a dense residential block.”https://www.nytimes.com/2021/09/10/world/asia/us-air-strike-drone-kabul-afghanistan-isis.html
KABUL, Afghanistan — It was the last known missile fired by the United States in its 20-year war in Afghanistan, and the military called it a “righteous strike” — a drone attack after hours of surveillance on Aug. 29 against a vehicle that American officials thought contained an ISIS bomb and posed an imminent threat to troops at Kabul’s airport.
But a New York Times investigation of video evidence, along with interviews with more than a dozen of the driver’s co-workers and family members in Kabul, raises doubts about the U.S. version of events, including whether explosives were present in the vehicle, whether the driver had a connection to ISIS, and whether there was a second explosion after the missile struck the car.
Military officials said they did not know the identity of the car’s driver when the drone fired, but deemed him suspicious because of how they interpreted his activities that day, saying that he possibly visited an ISIS safe house and, at one point, loaded what they thought could be explosives into the car.
Times reporting has identified the driver as Zemari Ahmadi, a longtime worker for a U.S. aid group. The evidence suggests that his travels that day actually involved transporting colleagues to and from work. And an analysis of video feeds showed that what the military may have seen was Mr. Ahmadi and a colleague loading canisters of water into his trunk to bring home to his family.
While the U.S. military said the drone strike might have killed three civilians, Times reporting shows that it killed 10, including seven children, in a dense residential block.
Mr. Ahmadi, 43, had worked since 2006 as an electrical engineer for Nutrition and Education International, a California-based aid group. The morning of the strike, Mr. Ahmadi’s boss called from the office at around 8:45 a.m., and asked him to pick up his laptop.
“I asked him if he was still at home, and he said yes,” the country director said in an interview at N.E.I.’s office in Kabul. Like the rest of Mr. Ahmadi’s colleagues, he spoke on condition of anonymity because of his association with an American company in Afghanistan.
According to his relatives, that morning Mr. Ahmadi left for work around 9 a.m. in a white 1996 Corolla that belonged to N.E.I., departing from his house, where he lived with his three brothers and their families, a few kilometers west of the airport.
U.S. officials told The Times that it was around this time that their target, a white sedan, first came under surveillance, after it was spotted leaving a compound identified as an alleged ISIS safe house about five kilometers northwest of the airport.
It is unclear if officials were referring to one of the three stops that Mr. Ahmadi made to pick up two passengers and the laptop on his way to work: The latter location, the home of N.E.I.’s country director, was close to where a rocket attack claimed by ISIS would be launched against the airport the following morning, from an improvised launcher concealed inside the trunk of a Toyota Corolla, a model similar to Mr. Ahmadi’s vehicle.
A Times reporter visited the director at his home, and met with members of his family, who said they had been living there for 40 years. “We have nothing to do with terrorism or ISIS,” said the director, who also has a U.S. resettlement case. “We love America. We want to go there.”
Throughout the day, an MQ-9 Reaper drone continued to track Mr. Ahmadi’s vehicle as it drove around Kabul, and U.S. officials claimed they intercepted communications between the sedan and the alleged ISIS safe house, instructing it to make several stops.
But the people who rode with Mr. Ahmadi that day said that what the military interpreted as a series of suspicious moves was simply a normal day at work.
After stopping to pick up breakfast, Mr. Ahmadi and his two passengers arrived at N.E.I.’s office, where security camera footage obtained by The Times recorded their arrival at 9:35 a.m. Later that morning Mr. Ahmadi drove some co-workers to a Taliban-occupied police station downtown, where they said they requested permission to distribute food to refugees in a nearby park. Mr. Ahmadi and his three passengers returned to the office around 2 p.m.
As seen on camera footage, Mr. Ahmadi came out a half-hour later with a hose that was streaming water. With the help of a guard, he filled several empty plastic containers. According to his co-workers, water deliveries had stopped in his neighborhood after the collapse of the government and Mr. Ahmadi had been bringing home water from the office.
“I filled the containers myself, and helped him load them into the trunk,” the guard said.
At 3:38 p.m., the guard and another co-worker moved the car farther into the driveway. The camera footage ends soon after, when the office shut off its generator at the end of the work day, and Mr. Ahmadi and three passengers left for home.
Around this time, U.S. officials said that the drone had tracked Mr. Ahmadi to a compound eight to 12 kilometers southwest of the airport, a location that matched N.E.I.’s office. There, they said the drone observed Mr. Ahmadi and three others loading heavy packages into the car, which they believed might contain explosives.
But the passengers said that they had only two laptops with them, which they put inside the vehicle, and that the trunk had no other cargo than the plastic water-filled containers that were placed there earlier. In separate interviews, all three passengers denied loading explosives into the vehicle they were about to commute home in.
According to one of Mr. Ahmadi’s passengers, a colleague who regularly commuted with him, the ride home was filled with their usual laughing and banter, but with one difference: Mr. Ahmadi kept the radio silent, as he was afraid of getting in trouble with the Taliban. “He liked happy music,” the colleague said. “That day, we couldn’t play any in the car.”
Mr. Ahmadi dropped off his three passengers, and then headed for his home near the airport. “I asked him to come in for a bit, but he said he was tired,” the last passenger said.
Although U.S. officials said that at that point they still knew little about Mr. Ahmadi’s identity, they had become convinced that the white sedan he was driving posed an imminent threat to troops at the airport.
When Mr. Ahmadi pulled into the courtyard of his home — which officials said was different than the alleged ISIS safe house — the tactical commander made the decision to strike his vehicle, launching a Hellfire missile at around 4:50 p.m.
Although the target was now inside a densely populated residential area, the drone operator quickly scanned and saw only a single adult male greeting the vehicle, and therefore assessed with “reasonable certainty” that no women, children or noncombatants would be killed, U.S. officials said.
But according to his relatives, as Mr. Ahmadi pulled into his courtyard, several of his children and his brothers’ children came out, excited to see him, and sat in the car as he backed it inside. Mr. Ahmadi’s brother Romal was sitting on the ground floor with his wife when he heard the sound of the gate opening, and Mr. Ahmadi’s car entering. His adult cousin Naser had gone to fetch water for his ablutions, and greeted him.
The car’s engine was still running when there was a sudden blast, and the room was sprayed with shattered glass from the window, Romal recalled. He staggered to his feet. “Where are the children?” he asked his wife.
“They’re outside,” she replied.
Romal ran out into the courtyard; he saw that his nephew Faysal, 16, had fallen from the exterior staircase, his torso and head grievously wounded by shrapnel. “He wasn’t breathing.”
Amid the smoke and fire, he saw another dead nephew, before neighbors arrived and pulled him away, he said.
Since the strike, U.S. military officials justified their actions by citing an even larger blast that took place afterward.
“Because there were secondary explosions, there is a reasonable conclusion to be made that there was explosives in that vehicle,” the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Mark A. Milley, said last week.
But an examination of the scene of the strike, conducted by the Times visual investigations team and a Times reporter the morning afterward, and followed up with a second visit four days later, found no evidence of a second, more powerful explosion.
Experts who examined photos and videos pointed out that, although there was clear evidence of a missile strike and subsequent vehicle fire, there were no collapsed or blown-out walls, no destroyed vegetation, and only one dent in the entrance gate, indicating a single shock wave.
“It seriously questions the credibility of the intelligence or technology utilized to determine this was a legitimate target,” said Chris Cobb-Smith, a British Army veteran and security consultant.
While the U.S. military has so far acknowledged only three civilian casualties, Mr. Ahmadi’s relatives said that 10 members of their family, including seven children, were killed in the strike: Mr. Ahmadi and three of his children, Zamir, 20, Faisal, 16, and Farzad, 10; Mr. Ahmadi’s cousin Naser, 30; three of Romal’s children, Arwin, 7, Benyamin, 6, and Hayat, 2; and two 3-year-old girls, Malika and Somaya.
Neighbors and an Afghan health official confirmed that bodies of children were removed from the site. They said the blast had shredded most of the victims; fragments of human remains were seen inside and around the compound the next day by a reporter, including blood and flesh splattered on interior walls and ceilings. Mr. Ahmadi’s relatives provided photographs of several badly burned bodies belonging to children.
Family members questioned why Mr. Ahmadi would have a motivation to attack Americans when he had already applied for refugee resettlement in the United States. His adult cousin Naser, a former U.S. military contractor, had also applied for resettlement. He had planned to marry his fiancée, Samia, last Friday so that she could be included in his immigration case.
“All of them were innocent,” said Emal, Mr. Ahmadi’s brother. “You say he was ISIS, but he worked for the Americans.”
By Ryan Hampton, Sept. 11, 2021https://www.nytimes.com/2021/09/11/opinion/purdue-sacklers-opioids-oxycontin-settlement.html?action=click&module=Well&pgtype=Homepage§ion=Guest%20Essays
On Sept. 26, 2019, the Department of Justice appointed me to serve on the Official Unsecured Creditors Committee in the bankruptcy case against Purdue Pharma, the company that helped fuel the opioid overdose crisis through the misbranding and reckless marketing of the powerful painkiller OxyContin. The committee acted as a mega-plaintiff, with broad powers to subpoena records, take depositions and cross-examine witnesses. For nearly two years, I attended countless negotiations, depositions and chambers meetings. I read thousands of pages of confidential documents revealing the true nature and depth of Purdue’s liability in the crisis.
The proceedings came to a close on Sept. 1, 2021. The final settlement promises as much as $10 billion to be distributed among states, municipalities, the federal government, victims and other corporate creditor groups through a restructured company. $4.5 billion of that will come from the company’s former owners, members of the Sackler family, in exchange for civil releases from any future litigation pertaining to the overdose crisis. Only about $750 million was reserved for direct payments to those most injured by the company — more than 130,000 victims who filed claims for harms associated with OxyContin, ranging from addiction to death by overdose.
Ignored by a system devised to protect extreme wealth and perpetuate social disparity, Purdue’s victims find themselves doubly victimized. I know this because I not only represented the victims; I’m one of them.
After my appointment to the nine-member committee, I was elected one of its two co-chairs. We had a fiduciary responsibility to over 600,000 parties with claims against Purdue. They included state and local governments, hospitals, pharmacies, insurance companies and individuals who had been harmed by the pharmaceutical giant.
The committee also included five representatives of corporations, including CVS Caremark, whose affiliate company CVS Pharmacy has faced litigation for its role in the sprawling overdose crisis. Although I had deep moral qualms about representing some of these companies, I also had a fiduciary duty to do so. As a committee co-chair, it was my job to remain impartial — easier said than done. Purdue Pharma is a repeat federal offender, having twice pleaded guilty in federal court for its crimes; I have called for a criminal indictment against the Sackler family. As someone in long-term recovery from an opioid addiction that included OxyContin, I also mourned the deaths of friends who lost their lives to overdoses. To win some measure of justice, I was determined to have a seat at the table.
But on the committee, the victim representatives were outnumbered by corporate representatives. These corporate representatives were there to claim that their interests had also been harmed; they contended that they, too, should receive a sizable settlement from Purdue.
Purdue’s counsel and even certain state attorneys general, I realized, seemed to view the victims’ participation in the proceedings as a charade. They appeared to characterize the victims’ presence on the committee as something of an endorsement of the settlement, a plan that included broad releases for the Sackler family. In reality, we were left with no choice.
Ultimately, Purdue’s lawyers and a majority of the attorneys general managed to get most of the committee to vote to shield the Sackler family from ever being sued in civil court for its role in the overdose crisis, using a controversial bankruptcy mechanism known as nonconsensual third-party releases. This is the opposite of what I and many other victims sought: We repeatedly called for transparency into the process, accountability for the Sacklers who had owned the company and reparations for the millions of people affected by the OxyContin-fueled drug epidemic.
The final settlement — up to $750 million to over 130,000 victim creditors — is far less than what will be paid to a handful of lawyers and consultants in the case. The scheme assigns a dollar amount to the harm experienced by each person. If people lost a loved one to an overdose involving OxyContin, their claim would be assigned the highest value, which is capped at $48,000, to be paid from Purdue’s estate over several years. But if people experienced a potentially deadly addiction that could be linked to a Purdue prescription, they may receive the minimum payout, $3,500 — a paltry sum. Victims stand to receive only about 7.5 percent of the total value of the estimated settlement. The other 92.5 percent will go to corporations and governments.
Victims deserved better — and they deserved more. And they did not deserve to have the Sackler family shielded from any civil litigation.
The family has denied any wrongdoing.
Several options could have been considered that would have distributed equitable financial compensation to those harmed by Purdue, without utilizing the contentious third-party releases.
Every state in the nation had a claim against Purdue, totaling more than $2 trillion. For 22 months, nearly half of the states, known as the nonconsenting states, opposed any deal that would release the Sackler family from future lawsuits. They preferred to remove them from the Purdue bankruptcy, stamp out their third-party releases and take the family to court separately in different jurisdictions — an outcome I would have supported, as long the victims’ $750 million or so would be protected. In July, 15 of the original 24 nonconsenting states, a strong majority, signed onto the deal that included the Sacklers, essentially eliminating any reasonable option that would have compensated victims without the family’s money.
During negotiations, I often asked: Why couldn’t we just eliminate the nonbankrupt Sacklers from the process? I believe this would have allowed litigation against them to resume. It also would have allowed victims to be compensated entirely from the new, restructured company — the same funding source from which states were set to receive the majority of their settlement. To this day, my question remains unanswered. In my opinion, this option would have eradicated the releases issue, protected compensation for victims and given states and victims the opportunity to have their day in court with the Sacklers, with the potential to recover more Sackler money through individual lawsuits.
Since resigning from the committee on Aug. 31, I am able to speak more freely about my experience. My view on the final chapter of Purdue is that money, not justice, won the day. Victims’ representatives were outnumbered in the process from the beginning: by corporations, by lawyers and by governments.
Many government institutions, previously unwilling to act as a watchdog on Big Pharma, were equally unwilling to treat some of our most vulnerable citizens with the dignity they deserved. Rising overdose rates, difficulty in accessing addiction treatment and recovery support services, lax enforcement of parity violations by insurance companies and government crackdowns on people who use drugs tell you all you need to know about the effectiveness of the status quo.
Companies like Purdue and families like the Sacklers should never find refuge in bankruptcy court. Nonconsensual third-party releases must be harder to obtain in Chapter 11 cases. And in cases where tremendous harm has been done to actual people, individual victim claims should be at the top of the pyramid — not at the bottom. Government claims should never outsize those of victims, but that is exactly the case in the injustice of the Purdue Pharma bankruptcy.
I entered this process hoping for reparations. Now, I can only pray for reform.
By Lauren Markham, September 11, 2021
Ms. Markham, a journalist, has covered international migration for over a decade, reporting from detention centers, migration hubs and refugee settlements in East Africa, Europe and the Americas.https://www.nytimes.com/2021/09/11/opinion/immigrant-detention-prison.html
One day in the spring of 2019, a young Honduran man in a detention center in Ferriday, La., began to feel strange. He’d recently heard from his lawyers that his request to be released on humanitarian parole while his asylum case was pending had been denied. As he swayed on his feet, his skin breaking out into hives, he suspected that the stress of facing more time in a prison cell had brought on a panic attack.
Then his symptoms intensified. His throat closed up, and he could barely catch his breath. His roommate tried to soothe him, but M., whom I am identifying only by his first initial because of death threats he has received in Honduras, lost consciousness and was taken to the local rural hospital, where he received treatment for anaphylactic shock. Over the next several months, he would go into shock twice more. The doctors never isolated the cause.
M.’s lawyers helped him file for parole yet again. “He needs a full medical evaluation and physical therapy to fully recover from his injuries,” they wrote; his release was “the only humanitarian course of action.” But an immigration officer rejected the request, calling M. a flight risk even though he had no criminal record and a friend willing to sponsor his release, assuming the responsibility for getting him to court.
Right now, more than 25,000 immigrants are imprisoned in U.S. detention facilities, with thousands more waiting in Mexico for the chance to cross — at which point most will be summarily locked up. It’s a policy of deterrence by detention: to make life so unpleasant that immigrants opt to go home on their own accord, or never come at all.
I’ve interviewed hundreds of people like M. who have spent months or even years in the grips of America’s detention system while they fight their court cases, baffled as to how they can remain locked up for so long. International law considers detention a measure of last resort, and America’s own policies reserve it for people who are either a danger to public safety or a significant flight risk.
But immigration judges and Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers get to decide these cases without having to offer much in the way of specifics; each year, they confine tens of thousands of people without so much as a parking ticket to their names, or any proof that they would vanish into the country if released. Like thousands of others, M. learned that his request for parole had been denied in a perfunctory memo sent to one of his lawyers: “You have not established to ICE’s satisfaction that you are not a flight risk.”
A few weeks after he was taken to the hospital, his lawyers tried yet again for parole. His “continued detention and lack of access to proper medical treatment,” one wrote, “places him at significant risk of death in ICE custody, which is something that I assume all parties want to avoid.” Again, the request was denied, with no justification.
The push to imprison immigrants emerges from the pernicious mythologies that cast these people — particularly those who are poor and not white — as dangerous criminals. And these days, people are being kept longer and longer in detention. In 2015, the average stay was 21 days. In 2020, despite the grave threat of a coronavirus outbreak, that number had leapt to 59 days. Many immigrants spend years in detention centers as they wait for their cases to move forward.
It doesn’t have to be this way. There are many alternatives to detention we could be using that have proved successful around the world, and even here at home. We can protect human rights and human life, lower the costs for taxpayers and ensure that people show up to their immigration proceedings.
Spain and Belgium, for instance, offer group homes where immigrants receive social work support and have their basic needs met while pursuing immigration status. In Spain, they can stay in these homes for up to six months; if their case takes longer, a social worker helps them find other housing and a job to pay for it. In Sweden, asylum seekers are given their own apartments, per diems and work permits, with the requirement that they regularly check in with the nearby immigration authorities until their case is resolved.
A Salvadoran woman staying in Belgium told me she’d headed there because she knew from friends and family what awaited her in the States. Now she takes free French and vocational classes while her daughter goes to public school. “In the U.S.,” she said, “I know I’d be in detention, and no one would be supporting me.”
If these alternatives to detention models sound like wishful thinking in a country as allergic to social spending as the United States, consider that in 2016, the Obama administration tried an initiative similar to Belgium’s system, the Family Case Management Program, which provided social services and referrals to qualifying families. According to the Niskanen Center, “The program achieved 99 percent compliance for check-ins and 100 percent compliance for court hearings.”
In 2017, the Trump administration shut down the program as part of its broader push to ramp up detention and enforcement efforts. Still, even through the Trump years, the United States employed other alternatives to detention that could be instituted easily and swiftly at scale.
One of these strategies is provisional release from detention, most often on bond or humanitarian parole. In both cases, the people detained are released to live with sponsors — family members or friends, generally — are required to check in regularly with an ICE agent, either by phone or in person, and are sometimes given an ankle bracelet for electronic monitoring.
In an early study conducted by the Government Accountability Office, 99 percent of participants enrolled in ICE’s comprehensive Alternatives to Detention program from 2011 to 2013 showed up at their court dates. Several years later, Mr. Trump falsely claimed that fewer than 1 percent of immigrants appeared on their court date after being released from detention, but government data puts that number closer to 83 percent. As of August, roughly 117,000 people were enrolled in Alternatives to Detention.
Still, a humanitarian crisis continues to unfold in detention centers across the country, as immigrants behind bars struggle to find legal counsel or the medical care they need to survive. In a 2018 report, Human Rights Watch analyzed the deaths of 15 ICE detainees from 2015 to 2017 and found that inadequate medical care contributed to more than half of the deaths. They would probably still be alive today had they been released into an alternative program.
While ending immigrant detention is first and foremost a matter of human rights, it is also an economic imperative. Since the Department of Homeland Security was created in 2003, the federal government has spent an estimated $333 billion on immigration enforcement. In 2018, it spent almost $3.1 billion on detention alone. While it costs taxpayers roughly $134 a day to keep someone in a detention center, the alternatives, such as case management and electronic monitoring, cost an average of roughly $6 each day.
And yet our government routinely declines to use these alternative measures. According to the government’s own policies, asylum seekers who can prove their identity and demonstrate that they do not pose a flight risk or threat to public safety should be released.
But in certain jurisdictions, judges or ICE agents summarily reject these applications — a trend that skyrocketed in the Trump administration as emboldened ICE officers rejected whole caseloads. In 2018, ICE’s New Orleans field office, for instance, denied more than 98 percent of parole applications.
Admittedly, the current alternatives to detention in the United States are far from perfect with respect to human rights. Many people are released from detention with uncomfortable and stigmatizing ankle bracelets; in rural locations, they must travel hundreds of miles each week, with limited transportation or funds, to meet with their ICE officers or, in rare instances, caseworkers, who are not always supportive or helpful. But these alternatives could be greatly improved and better monitored — at a small fraction of the human and economic cost of maintaining a sprawling network of detention centers.
In spite of being a prime candidate for parole, M. was kept in detention for roughly 18 months before he was deported in May 2020 without warning, after a Covid outbreak in his facility. (He is now fighting his asylum case from Honduras.) Even he was surprised he lasted that long inside. Detention is made to break people.
As standard as it has become for our country to imprison people seeking refuge within our borders, it is worth remembering just how new immigration detention is in the span of human history. The world’s first detention center devoted entirely to immigrants was Ellis Island, “the island that,” as the French novelist Georges Perec wrote, “in every European tongue / had been renamed the isle of tears.” The second of its kind was Angel Island, a sentinel prison in the San Francisco Bay, at the other end of “the land of the free,” where, between 1910 and 1940, immigrants mostly from East Asia were detained.
The United States, then, a country whose founding mythologies are rooted in freedom and protection from tyranny, invented immigration detention — a creation that is tremendously costly to human life, to the human psyche and the national spirit and to taxpayers. And it’s one that, given all these alternatives, we need never have created in the first place.
By Farah Stockman, Sept. 13, 2021
“Who won the war on terror? American defense contractors, many of which were politically connected companies that had donated to George W. Bush’s presidential campaign, according to the Center for Public Integrity, a nonprofit that has been tracking spending in a series of reports called the Windfalls of War. One firm hired to help advise Iraqi ministries had a single employee — the husband of a deputy assistant secretary of defense.”https://www.nytimes.com/2021/09/13/opinion/afghanistan-war-economy.html
The war in Afghanistan wasn’t a failure. It was a massive success — for those who made a fortune off it.
Consider the case of Hikmatullah Shadman, who was just a teenager when American Special Forces rolled into Kandahar on the heels of Sept. 11. They hired him as an interpreter, paying him up to $1,500 a month — 20 times the salary of a local police officer, according to a profile of him in The New Yorker. By his late 20s, he owned a trucking company that supplied U.S. military bases, earning him more than $160 million.
If a small fry like Shadman could get so rich off the war on terror, imagine how much Gul Agha Sherzai, a big-time warlord-turned-governor, has raked in since he helped the C.I.A. run the Taliban out of town. His large extended family supplied everything from gravel to furniture to the military base in Kandahar. His brother controlled the airport. Nobody knows how much he is worth, but it is clearly hundreds of millions — enough for him to talk about a $40,000 shopping spree in Germany as if he were spending pocket change.
Look under the hood of the “good war,” and this is what you see. Afghanistan was supposed to be an honorable war to neutralize terrorists and rescue girls from the Taliban. It was supposed to be a war that we woulda coulda shoulda won, had it not been for the distraction of Iraq, and the hopeless corruption of the Afghan government. But let’s get real. Corruption wasn’t a design flaw in the war. It was a design feature. We didn’t topple the Taliban. We paid warlords bags of cash to do it.
As the nation-building project got underway, those same warlords were transformed into governors, generals and members of Parliament, and the cash payments kept flowing.
“Westerners often scratched their heads at the persistent lack of capacity in Afghan governing institutions,” Sarah Chayes, a former special assistant to U.S. military leaders in Kandahar, wrote recently in Foreign Affairs. “But the sophisticated networks controlling those institutions never intended to govern. Their objective was self-enrichment. And at that task, they proved spectacularly successful.”
Instead of a nation, what we really built were more than 500 military bases — and the personal fortunes of the people who supplied them. That had always been the deal. In April 2002, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld dictated a top-secret memo ordering aides to come up with “a plan for how we are going to deal with each of these warlords — who is going to get money from whom, on what basis, in exchange for what, what is the quid pro quo, etc.,” according to The Washington Post.
The war proved enormously lucrative for many Americans and Europeans, too. One 2008 study estimated that some 40 percent of the money allocated to Afghanistan actually went back to donor countries in corporate profits and consultant salaries. Only about 12 percent of U.S. reconstruction assistance given to Afghanistan between 2002 and 2021 actually went to the Afghan government. Much of the rest went to companies like the Louis Berger Group, a New Jersey-based construction firm that got a $1.4 billion contract to build schools, clinics and roads. Even after it got caught bribing officials and systematically overbilling taxpayers, the contracts kept coming.
“It’s a bugbear of mine that Afghan corruption is so frequently cited as an explanation (as well as an excuse) for Western failure in Afghanistan,” Jonathan Goodhand, a professor in Conflict and Development Studies at SOAS University of London, wrote me in an email. Americans “point the finger at Afghans, whilst ignoring their role in both fueling and benefiting from the patronage pump.”
Who won the war on terror? American defense contractors, many of which were politically connected companies that had donated to George W. Bush’s presidential campaign, according to the Center for Public Integrity, a nonprofit that has been tracking spending in a series of reports called the Windfalls of War. One firm hired to help advise Iraqi ministries had a single employee — the husband of a deputy assistant secretary of defense.
For George W. Bush and his friends, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan achieved a great deal. President Bush got a chance to play a tough guy on TV. He became a wartime president, which helped him win re-election. By the time people figured out that the war in Iraq had been waged on false pretenses and the war in Afghanistan had no honorable exit plan, it was too late.
What stands out about the war in Afghanistan is the way that it became the Afghan economy. At least Iraq had oil. In Afghanistan, the war dwarfed every other economic activity, apart from the opium trade.
Over two decades, the U.S. government spent $145 billion on reconstruction and aid, and an additional $837 billion on war fighting, in a country where the G.D.P. hovered between $4 billion and $20 billion per year.
Economic growth has risen and fallen with the number of foreign troops in the country. It soared during President Barack Obama’s surge in 2009 only to plummet with the drawdown two years later.
Imagine what ordinary Afghans might have done if they had been able to use that money for long-term projects planned and executed at their own pace. But alas, policymakers in Washington rushed to push cash out the door, since money spent was one of the few measurable metrics of success.
The money was meant to buy security, bridges and power plants to win “hearts and minds.” But the surreal amounts of cash poisoned the country instead, embittering those who didn’t have access to it, and setting off rivalries between those who did.
“The money spent was far more than Afghanistan could absorb,” concluded the special inspector general of Afghanistan’s final report. “The basic assumption was that corruption was created by individual Afghans and that donor interventions were the solution. It would take years for the United States to realize that it was fueling corruption with its excessive spending and lack of oversight.”
The result was a fantasy economy that operated more like a casino or a Ponzi scheme than a country. Why build a factory or plant crops when you can get fabulously wealthy selling whatever the Americans want to buy? Why fight the Taliban when you could just pay them not to attack?
The money fueled the revolving door of war, enriching the very militants that it was meant to fight, whose attacks then justified a new round of spending.
A forensic accountant who served on a military task force that analyzed $106 billion worth of Pentagon contracts estimated that 40 percent of the money ended up in the pockets of “insurgents, criminal syndicates or corrupt Afghan officials,” according to The Washington Post.
Social scientists have a name for countries that are so reliant on unearned income from outsiders: “rentier states.” It is usually used for oil-producing countries, but Afghanistan now stands out as an extreme example.
A report by Kate Clark of the Afghanistan Analysts Network outlined how Afghanistan’s rentier economy undermined efforts to build a democracy. Since money flowed from foreigners instead of taxes, leaders were responsive to donors rather than their own citizens.
I knew the war in Afghanistan had gone off the rails the day I had lunch in Kabul with a European consultant who got paid a lot of money to write reports about Afghan corruption. He’d just arrived, but he already had a lot of ideas about what needed to be done — including ridding the Afghan Civil Service of pay scales based on seniority. I suspect that he could have never could have never gotten an idea like that passed in his own country. But in Kabul, he had a shot at getting his ideas adopted. To him, Afghanistan wasn’t a failure, but a place to shine.
None of this is to say that the Afghan people don’t deserve support, even now. They do. But far more can be achieved by spending far less in a more thoughtful way.
What does the Taliban takeover say about the war? It proves that you cannot buy an army. You can only rent one for awhile. Once the money spigot turned off, how many stuck around to fight for our vision of Afghanistan? Not Gul Agha Sherzai, the warlord-turned-governor. He has reportedly pledged allegiance to the Taliban.
Twenty years after the attacks, the United States is still grappling with the consequences of brutal interrogations carried out in the name of national security.
By Carol Rosenberg, Sept. 12, 2021https://www.nytimes.com/2021/09/12/us/politics/torture-post-9-11.html
Mr. Slahi at home in Nouakchott, Mauritania. He exhibits signs of post-traumatic stress disorder. Credit...Btihal Remli for The New York Times
NOUAKCHOTT, Mauritania — Mohamedou Ould Slahi is almost clinical as he recalls details of the torture he endured in the summer of 2003 at Guantánamo Bay.
There were the guards who menaced him with attack dogs and beat him so badly they broke his ribs. The troops who shackled him, blasted him with heavy metal music and strobe lights or drenched him in ice water to deny him sleep for months on end. The mind-numbing isolation in a darkened cell without his Quran. The female guards who exposed themselves and touched him sexually in an effort to undermine his adherence to Islam.
But what left Mr. Slahi in utter despair, he said, was the interrogator who tried to threaten him into acknowledging that he was complicit in plotting a terrorist attack.
“If you don’t admit to it, we are going to kidnap your mother, rape her,” the interrogator said, by Mr. Slahi’s account.
“I remember telling them: ‘This is unfair. This is not fair,’” Mr. Slahi recalled. The interrogator, he said, responded: “I’m not looking for justice. I’m looking to stop planes from hitting buildings in my country.”
To which Mr. Slahi said he replied, “You need to get those people, not me.”
Today, Mr. Slahi, 50, is a free man in Mauritania, his homeland in West Africa, after nearly 15 years as a detainee, an early portion of that time with the threat of a death-penalty trial hanging over him.
In the end, he was released in 2016 without ever being charged, the confessions he made under duress recanted, a proposed case against him deemed by the prosecutor to be worthless in court because of the brutality of the interrogation.
“I was very naïve, and I didn’t understand how America works,” Mr. Slahi said.
For the United States, as for Mr. Slahi, the legacy of the torture remains complex and multifaceted two decades after the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, led the George W. Bush administration to set aside legal and moral constraints in the name of national security.
The United States has long since stopped employing the so-called enhanced interrogation techniques used in what studies have concluded was a fruitless or counterproductive effort to extract lifesaving information from detainees in secret C.I.A. prisons and at Guantánamo Bay.
But the choice to turn to government-sanctioned torture remains a stain on the country’s reputation, undercutting its authority to confront repression elsewhere. Even today, some former Bush administration officials risk questioning when traveling to Europe by investigators invoking the United Nations Convention Against Torture.
After his first meeting with President Biden in June, President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia reminded journalists that Guantánamo remained open and that the C.I.A. had carried out torture in secret foreign prisons. “Is that human rights?” he asked.
The use of torture is complicating efforts to bring the five men who are accused of plotting the Sept. 11 attacks to justice.
“There was torture,” said Adele Welty, whose son Timothy, a firefighter, died in New York on Sept. 11. She has come to question whether the military commissions at Guantánamo can deliver justice.
“The fact that my country could do that is so barbaric. It really bothers me,” she said. “What kind of people are we that we could do that to other human beings, and did we really believe that what they were saying in response to the torture was real, or were they just saying it to stop the torture?”
Stuart Couch, a former Marine prosecutor whose job was to put Mr. Slahi on trial at Guantánamo Bay — but who refused once he learned what the military had done to him — said the United States still suffered from what he called the “Jack Bauer effect”: the belief that you could beat a confession out of a suspect, save the day and emerge heroic, like the star of the TV thriller “24,” which aired on Fox from 2001 to 2010.
Mr. Slahi lived that misconception.
He now has a measure of fame. His best-selling memoir, “Guantánamo Diary,” was released in a film version, “The Mauritanian.” While he is often denied visas for travel, he recently made a trip to London, where he took part in a literary reading and was hosted at a party by Kevin Macdonald, the director of the movie.
A software engineer, Mr. Slahi has two phones, a laptop and Wi-Fi in the home he built since his release. Isolated for long stretches during his imprisonment, he carries on multiple conversations across the world these days through texts, video chats and phone calls.
On one level, his is a hopeful story.
“I wholeheartedly forgive everyone who wronged me during my detention,” he said in a YouTube message to the world soon after his release. “I forgive, because forgiveness is my inexhaustible resource.”
But the effects of what he endured at Guantánamo are by no means behind him.
Mr. Slahi exhibits signs of post-traumatic stress disorder: insomnia, inattentiveness, hyperattentiveness, at times scattered thinking. He has hearing deficits probably related to the screeching heavy metal music that guards blasted to keep him awake and chronic back pain from sciatica that can be attributed to months of shackling.
He has memory lapses of a certain period of detention and vivid recollections of other times. Discussing his torture, he juxtaposed the accounts of his abuse at Guantánamo with renditions of songs he remembered hearing there: Drowning Pool’s “Let the Bodies Hit the Floor” to deprive him of sleep, and a Justin Timberlake tune, “Señorita,” that soothed him as it seeped into his cell from a nearby guard post.
Mr. Slahi was one of two detainees whose torture at Guantánamo Bay was carried out under a program approved by Donald H. Rumsfeld, the defense secretary at the time. The United States also sent 119 people into the C.I.A.’s overseas network of secret prisons — including the accused plotters of the Sept. 11 attacks — where detainees were routinely sleep deprived, shackled in excruciating ways and subjected to rectal abuse and other brutal treatment.
The C.I.A. has acknowledged that three detainees were waterboarded. One died of abuse. Many more were brutalized in U.S. or allied detention as interrogators improvised their own methods.
A comprehensive study by the Senate Select Intelligence Committee of the agency’s program concluded that the techniques did not save lives or disrupt terrorist plots and were not necessary, findings that the C.I.A. disputed. (A lengthy executive summary of the report was made public in 2014, but the full report remains classified.)
Mr. Slahi’s story — laid out in interviews, testimony and congressional investigations — spans much of the 20 years in which the United States has variously obscured, acknowledged and dealt with the diplomatic and human fallout of the interrogation programs authorized by Mr. Bush and his team.
Mr. Slahi was a clever, curious son in a Bedouin family of 12 children who became the first in his family to study abroad. While working toward an engineering degree in Germany in the 1990s, he traveled to Afghanistan to train in the anti-Communist jihad at a time when the United States endorsed it. He was back in his native Mauritania on Sept. 11, 2001.
Intelligence analysts sifting through records after the attacks noted that he had received a call in late 1998 or early 1999 from a satellite phone used by Osama bin Laden. The call was about a family matter and came from a cousin who had been part of bin Laden’s inner circle and later fled to Mauritania, Mr. Slahi said.
U.S. intelligence had also come to believe that Mr. Slahi had hosted three Muslim men in his home in Duisburg, Germany, for a night in November 1999. Among them were two of the Sept. 11 hijackers and Ramzi bin al-Shibh, who is accused of recruiting the so-called Hamburg cell of hijackers and is charged in a death-penalty case at Guantánamo. Mr. Slahi dismissed the encounter as so casual — a matter of offering hospitality to fellow Muslim travelers — that he said he did not remember the suspect named Ramzi when interrogators pressed him on it.
Investigators also noticed that Mr. Slahi had moved to Montreal in the winter of 1999 and prayed at the same mosque as Ahmed Ressam, an Algerian known as the millennium bomber for a failed plot to plant a bomb at Los Angeles International Airport on New Year’s Eve in 1999. Mr. Slahi was questioned by federal security forces in Canada and left for home after two months.
By 2001, the United States had persuaded the Mauritanian government to hand Mr. Slahi to Jordanian interrogators. He was then sent to Guantánamo Bay in August 2002, after what he described as a brief, brutal stay at a U.S. military lockup in Bagram, Afghanistan.
At Guantánamo, guards and interrogators sought to break him both physically and psychologically. In one case, described by Mr. Slahi and other detainees, female guards exposed themselves and made sexual advances on him as he was shackled to a chair in an interrogation room. A male guard taunted him while a female guard took off her clothing.
“There was touching,” Mr. Slahi said. “So humiliating. So destroying.”
After months of interrogation, he admitted to plotting to blow up the CN Tower in Toronto — a confession he later said was forced, adding that he did not know before his interrogation that the skyscraper existed.
A trial was averted after Mr. Couch, then a lieutenant colonel in the Marine Corps, stumbled into a surreal scene at Guantánamo of another prisoner in an interrogation cell, nude, shackled to the floor and being blasted with heavy metal music. The colonel was shocked, did some digging and realized that Mr. Slahi’s confessions were obtained through what he concluded was cruel and unusual treatment.
Never charged, Mr. Slahi was kept as a prisoner in the war on terror, deemed too dangerous to release until his book, published in 2015 after his lawyers worked to have his writing declassified, put a spotlight on his case. A former Army guard, Steve Wood of Oregon, wrote the Obama administration’s interagency parole board that he considered Mr. Slahi so safe he would gladly host him in his home.
U.S. forces delivered Mr. Slahi to Mauritania just as he had been brought to Guantánamo: blindfolded and in shackles.
But while Mr. Slahi has been released, Guantánamo continues to reckon with what was done to other detainees still held there — not least the five men accused of helping to plot the Sept. 11 attacks, including the alleged mastermind, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, whom C.I.A. contractors waterboarded 183 times at a secret prison in Poland.
The war court at Guantánamo, run by the U.S. military, is meant to balance the need for secrecy with the rights of the accused.
To the frustration of families of the nearly 3,000 victims of the attack, the crimes of Sept. 11 have been rarely mentioned in nearly a decade of proceedings.
Rather, defense lawyers have effectively managed to put the C.I.A. on trial as they have systematically sought to exclude evidence against the men — notably confessions they made months into their stays at Guantánamo — as a product of torture.
The lawyers for one defendant, Mustafa al-Hawsawi, who sits gingerly on a pillow in court because of pain from rectal abuse in C.I.A. custody, argue that the case should be dismissed outright because of outrageous government conduct.
In an effort to speed up the proceedings — and perhaps to protect the identities of certain C.I.A. employees — prosecutors have begun acknowledging that the United States tortured its captives in overseas prisons. They do not use the word, but they have read aloud in court from grisly descriptions of abuse to try to argue that defense lawyers have sufficient details to try to move either for dismissal of the charges or to exclude the death penalty if the defendants are convicted.
Prosecutors said in 2018 that they would stipulate to “anything tethered to reality” to avoid the national security struggle over declassifying certain details of what went on in the secret sites.
“We’re not going to quibble,” said one prosecutor, Jeffrey D. Groharing. “We’re not going to call witnesses and debate about whether Mr. Mohammed was waterboarded 183 times or 283 times. We, frankly, think that has little relevance to the commissions and the issues before it.”
The prosecutors appear to be banking on the idea that at this point, testimony about the treatment of the defendants will not lead the military jury in the case to acquit.
But there are also plenty of Americans who have not forgotten the choices made after Sept. 11. The country’s revulsion of torture dates to “the earliest days of the American Republic,” Judge Jed S. Rakoff, a federal judge in Manhattan, wrote in his recent book “Why the Innocent Plead Guilty and the Guilty Go Free.”
“This is not the way a civilized colony, or later the United States as a whole, conducts itself,” he said. “I do think that fundamental legal qua moral approach was what was undercut in the wake of 9/11 by what happened in Guantánamo.”
The judge’s courthouse is a few blocks from ground zero. “What is still seared in my memory is watching people jump out of the windows of the World Trade Center towers because the alternative is being burned to death inside,” he said in an interview. “One can never forget the atrocity of that attack. But it is also exactly when atrocities occur that the rule of law is put to the test.”
Only a handful of the men who were subject to the treatment approved by the Bush administration have been released and spoken publicly about the experience, with Mr. Slahi being prominent among them.
“I only have the law,” he said last month. “And if the law fails me, I’m done. There is nothing else left for me.”
By Michelle Goldberg, Sept. 13, 2021
In Texas, teenagers who need abortions must get their parents’ consent, but for many young people, that’s not an option. Maybe they’re in foster care, or they’re unaccompanied minors in immigration detention, in which case the government has legal authority over them. Maybe their parents are abusive, or adamantly opposed to abortion.
The Supreme Court has ruled that parents don’t have absolute power to make their children continue unwanted pregnancies, so Texas, like many other states, has an allowance for what’s called a judicial bypass. If a pregnant minor can prove to a judge that she’s mature enough to make her own decision, or that notifying a parent is not in her best interest, she can get a waiver allowing her to have an abortion.
But Texas’ six-week abortion ban, which the Supreme Court has refused to stay, has all but put an end to judicial bypasses. Even if a girl finds out she’s pregnant the moment a home test can pick it up, getting through the judicial bypass process and the state’s 24-hour waiting period before six weeks of pregnancy is extraordinarily difficult, if not impossible. As long as the law, known as Senate Bill 8, stands, abortion is going to be unavailable to some of the state’s most vulnerable teenagers. It doesn’t matter, under the law, if they were raped, or if telling their parents they’re pregnant will put them in danger. It doesn’t even matter if their father was the one who impregnated them.
Jane’s Due Process is an organization that helps pregnant minors obtain waivers. Rosann Mariappuram, its executive director, told me that before S.B. 8, at least one teenager a day would typically seek the group’s help. Ten percent to 15 percent of its clients are either in immigration detention or foster care, meaning there’s no way for them to get an abortion without a judge signing off on it.
Since the new law went into effect at the start of the month, there’s been a “drastic drop in calls,” said Mariappuram. She speculated that most minors “assumed they were past six weeks and couldn’t get care.” At the same time, she said there’s been a huge increase in requests for pregnancy tests and emergency contraceptives, which the group distributes at no charge.
If pregnant teenagers attempt a judicial bypass, they’re in a race against the clock. Last week, the Texas governor, Greg Abbott, insisted that the new law doesn’t harm rape victims because “it provides at least six weeks for a person to be able to get an abortion.” His refusal to learn the basics of human reproduction shows just how cavalier he is about the impact of the law he signed. In reality, plenty of women don’t know they’re pregnant at six weeks, around two weeks after a missed period. Pregnancies often aren’t even detectable until around four weeks.
When a new client asks for help, Jane’s Due Process starts by immediately scheduling an ultrasound, and then trying to get an expedited hearing before a judge. Judges are supposed to schedule bypass hearings as soon as possible, but they have discretion about what that means. Once a teenager has made her case, the judge has up to five business days to issue a ruling. In the past, if a judge denied a request, Jane’s Due Process could appeal, but since that process usually takes a couple of weeks, it’s no longer an option.
So for a desperate teenager to get an abortion, everything has to go right. “If they come in at five and a half weeks, we have three or four days to get it done,” said Mariappuram. “Only teens who live in or close to major metropolitan areas are able to do that, because of the travel that’s required to get to the clinics.”
Adults with resources can go out of state for an abortion. Teenagers who don’t have their parents’ help largely cannot. If you can’t tell your parents that you’re pregnant, you probably also can’t explain a road trip to New Mexico. People in immigration detention obviously can’t travel. “There are no options for them,” said Mariappuram.
It was a minor scandal when Scott Lloyd, a director of the Office of Refugee Resettlement under Donald Trump, used his authority to try to stop some migrant girls from getting abortions. Now the entire state of Texas is doing it. The escalating authoritarianism of the Republican Party means that policies that were shocking as recently as 2018 can quickly become routine.
As The Washington Post reported, Republican officials in at least seven states are considering copying the Texas abortion law. The human toll will be terrible; a large study of women who wanted abortions but were denied them found that forced birth had wrenching consequences for their physical and mental health, their finances and the children they already had.
There’s an extra dose of cruelty in stripping the young people with the least control over their own lives of control over their bodies as well. The loophole for teenagers in bad situations was already small. Texas has shrunk it to a pinprick.
The mayor is facing growing calls to address chaotic and violent conditions inside New York City’s vast jail complex.
By Emma G. Fitzsimmons, Jonah E. Bromwich and Jan Ransom, Sept. 14, 2021
“Three inmates have died over the last month including Esias Johnson, a 24-year-old man who was being held on $1 bail and whose family said he struggled with mental illness, and Brandon Rodriguez, a 25-year-old man who used a shirt to hang himself. … The vast majority of those being held at Rikers, as well as those in other city jails, are awaiting trial. There are currently close to 6,000 people in custody in the city’s jails; more than three-quarters of them have yet to be tried, and are presumed innocent.”
Alice Fontier, the managing director of Neighborhood Defender Service of Harlem, spoke at a news conference outside Rikers Island on Monday. Lawmakers and others who visited the jail said the conditions inside were deplorable. Credit...Juan Arredondo for The New York Times
Mayor Bill de Blasio has been all over New York City this summer, heralding the city’s recovery. He visited a pool in Brooklyn in a bright beach outfit. He attended a series of concerts in every borough. He rubbed elbows with celebrities at the Met Gala on Monday.
But in recent days he has faced withering criticism for not visiting Rikers Island, even as the notorious jail complex has spiraled into crisis. His last trip there was four years ago.
Ten people have died on Rikers this year, and staff shortages have led to a series of violent episodes and an unsanitary and chaotic living environment inside the jail, a federal monitor said this summer. As the jail has grown less safe, there have been growing calls for Mr. de Blasio to visit the complex and to move more aggressively to improve the dangerous conditions there.
Mr. de Blasio, a Democrat who has less than four months left in office, has pledged to close Rikers in the coming years and framed it as a key part of his progressive legacy. But he could end up leaving many of the challenges for the next mayor to fix.
“There has been a back-turning of this mayor on this issue,” said Tina Luongo, the attorney in charge of the criminal defense practice at the Legal Aid Society. “All he wants to tout is his legacy to close it in six years. His legacy is right here in what is happening on that island. And he has got to take responsibility.”
More than a dozen elected officials visited the jail on Monday and assailed deplorable conditions that several of them said during a subsequent news conference amounted to a humanitarian crisis. They called on Mr. de Blasio to grant the early release of some of those being held there, an action that the mayor has said he has no plans to take.
On Tuesday, Mr. de Blasio is expected to announce a new “Emergency Rikers Relief Plan” to make repairs and to move Department of Correction staff members from the courts to Rikers, according to a city official. The mayor will threaten to suspend correction officers who are not showing up to work for 30 days without pay. Mr. de Blasio will also call on state officials and the court system to do more to help.
After touring Rikers on Monday, Jumaane Williams, New York City’s public advocate, said that he planned to call the mayor, as well as Gov. Kathy C. Hochul, to tell them what he had seen. He said he feared that a catastrophe like the revolt at Attica prison in 1971 would soon take place at Rikers.
“We were all in danger in there,” he said.
Mr. Williams said in an interview that the mayor “needs to use some of his clemency powers” to get certain people out of the jail, that new corrections officers should be hired and that corrections officers who have been calling in sick or not showing up to work for thousands of shifts over the last year, needed to return to their jobs.
In interviews, detainees, jail staff and medical workers said that the situation at the jail complex worsened with each passing day.
Some units that were once secured by up to four correction officers now have none, as nearly a third of the department’s roughly 8,400 uniformed staff are either out sick or otherwise not showing up for work. Gangs and other detainees have taken to managing the comings and goings of dozens of incarcerated people in their dorms, breaking up fights and administering medical care.
Mounds of trash line the hallways and staircases. Soap and cleaning products are often unavailable. Some units are without toilet paper; in others, worms inch out from drains. Many incarcerated people have not been outside in months and spend their hours in dormitories without programming and services. The timing of their meals — if they get them at all — is unpredictable, a public defender said. The barbershop is closed. The medical clinic is backed up, a staff member said.
Fear and tension run high.
“We have no minimum standards whatsoever, no medical services, no recreation, no religious services or law and library services,” one detainee, Reginald Wiggins, 58, said. “We have not had an officer on this unit in three weeks. I am in fear of my life.”
In May, Mr. de Blasio named a new correction commissioner, Vincent Schiraldi, who is viewed as an experienced reformer, and the mayor pledged to hire more correction officers, though those hires are unlikely to bring relief to the system until next year. The fact that Mr. de Blasio has not visited Rikers since the summer of 2017 has infuriated advocates for incarcerated people.
Keith Powers, a City Council member who leads the criminal justice committee, goes to Rikers several times each year, he said, and called on Mr. de Blasio to visit.
“In a moment of crisis, that’s the time you want to show up to get a better handle on what the issues are,” he said. “It’s both important symbolically, but also structurally to understand the urgency of fixing the problem.”
Four years ago, Mr. de Blasio threw his support behind a proposal to close Rikers. An $8 billion plan produced two years later called for closing the complex by 2026 and building four new jails across the city, though that timeline could be in doubt.
Eric Adams, the Democratic nominee for mayor who is strongly favored to win the general election in November, supports closing Rikers, but has objected to the locations chosen for three of the new jail sites. Mr. Adams, a former police captain who is running on a law and order message, visited Rikers this month with Mr. Schiraldi and union leaders.
Mr. Adams released a plan for Rikers that includes moving mentally ill inmates and those addicted to drugs off the island and to ban correction officers from working triple shifts.
“Eric believes the situation at Rikers is now a full-blown crisis that must be addressed with immediate investments in personnel and resources, as well as new policies that protect inmates and officers alike — and that we cannot wait for new jails to solve this problem,” Evan Thies, an Adams spokesman, said in a statement.
Curtis Sliwa, the Republican nominee for mayor, held an event outside Gracie Mansion on Sunday to urge Mr. de Blasio to visit Rikers and to draw attention to correction officers who have been attacked by inmates. Mr. Sliwa, the founder of the Guardian Angels, opposes closing Rikers and wants to build new facilities on the island.
More immediately, Mr. Sliwa wants to hire 2,000 additional correction officers and to remove emotionally disturbed people from the island. He said he was held on Rikers in the 1980s and saw the conditions for himself.
“It’s falling apart, and it’s not fair to the inmates or the correction officers,” Mr. Sliwa said in an interview. “The doors are broken, and anarchy rules.”
Three inmates have died over the last month including Esias Johnson, a 24-year-old man who was being held on $1 bail and whose family said he struggled with mental illness, and Brandon Rodriguez, a 25-year-old man who used a shirt to hang himself. After their deaths, the Legal Aid Society said the correction department had shown that it could not keep people safe and called on Mr. de Blasio to reduce the number of inmates.
The vast majority of those being held at Rikers, as well as those in other city jails, are awaiting trial. There are currently close to 6,000 people in custody in the city’s jails; more than three-quarters of them have yet to be tried, and are presumed innocent.
But Mr. de Blasio said recently that he had no plans to release inmates from jail early after criticism over a similar move last year during the height of the pandemic. Mr. de Blasio denied a report in The New York Post that his administration was considering releasing 180 inmates, and his police commissioner, Dermot Shea, said he was against any early releases.
Mr. de Blasio said it was possible that people inside his administration were examining the idea, but he said he did not support it.
“There are people constantly looking at different alternatives and assessing them, but if they haven’t been approved, they literally haven’t been approved and it isn’t happening,” he said.
Since mass absenteeism and mismanagement plunged the city’s jail system further into crisis this summer, leaving entire jail houses unsecure, detainees said they had witnessed the creation of more weapons, including some fashioned out of aluminum taken from ceiling fixtures.
“We did not come into jail to die,” said Victor Raimo, 51, who has two months left to serve on a six-month sentence, and is worried about his safety. “This is criminal what’s happening here. There’s no care, custody and control. We need help.”