Find a protest near you!
National days of action Sept. 24-26
Stop all evictions and cancel the rents!
Register a demonstration in your city here!
Endorse the days of protest here!
Organizers from every part of the country are mobilizing to take part in the Sept. 24-26 national days of protest! Congress must act to institute an indefinite moratorium on evictions and foreclosures that covers the entire country. An act of Congress would not be subject to a court challenge the way the CDC-issued moratorium was. An indefinite eviction freeze would provide stability for working class renters, mortgage holders and small landlords, and should be followed by the total cancellation of rent and mortgage debt accumulated during the pandemic.
Protesters taking part in the national days of action will demand that:
· Congress pass an indefinite moratorium on evictions that covers 100 percent of the country.
· Authorities at all levels dramatically speed up the distribution of already-allocated renter relief funds.
· Congress cancel the rents and wipe out all rent and mortgage debt accumulated during the pandemic.
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
End Legal Slavery in U.S. Prisons
Sign Petition at:
On the anniversary of the 26th of July Movement’s founding, Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research launches the online exhibition, Let Cuba Live. 80 artists from 19 countries – including notable cartoonists and designers from Cuba – submitted over 100 works in defense of the Cuban Revolution. Together, the exhibition is a visual call for the end to the decades-long US-imposed blockade, whose effects have only deepened during the pandemic. The intentional blocking of remittances and Cuba’s use of global financial institutions have prevented essential food and medicine from entering the country. Together, the images in this exhibition demand: #UnblockCuba #LetCubaLive
Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in organising a local exhibition of the exhibition.
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
*𝙅𝙖𝙢𝙚𝙨 𝙋𝙖𝙧𝙠, 𝙄𝙣𝙩𝙚𝙧𝙨𝙩𝙖𝙩𝙚 𝘾𝙤𝙢𝙥𝙖𝙘𝙩 𝘼𝙙𝙢𝙞𝙣𝙞𝙨𝙩𝙧𝙖𝙩𝙤𝙧 𝙅𝙖𝙢𝙚𝙨.𝙥𝙖𝙧𝙠@𝙫𝙖𝙙𝙤𝙘.𝙫𝙞𝙧𝙜𝙞𝙣𝙞𝙖.𝙜𝙤𝙫
* 𝘾𝙝𝙖𝙧𝙡𝙚𝙣𝙚 𝘽𝙪𝙧𝙠𝙚𝙩𝙩, 𝘿𝙞𝙧𝙚𝙘𝙩𝙤𝙧 𝘿𝙊𝘾 𝙊𝙢𝙗𝙪𝙙𝙨𝙢𝙖𝙣 𝘽𝙪𝙧𝙚𝙖𝙪 (𝙄𝙣𝙙𝙞𝙖𝙣𝙖) (317) 234-3190 𝙊𝙢𝙗𝙪𝙙@𝙞𝙙𝙤𝙖.𝙞𝙣.𝙜𝙤𝙫 𝙍𝙞𝙘𝙝𝙖𝙧𝙙 𝘽𝙧𝙤𝙬𝙣, 𝙒𝙖𝙧𝙙𝙚𝙣 𝙒𝙖𝙗𝙖𝙨𝙝 𝙑𝙖𝙡𝙡𝙚𝙮 𝘾𝙤𝙧𝙧𝙚𝙘𝙩𝙞𝙤𝙣𝙖𝙡 𝙁𝙖𝙘𝙞𝙡𝙞𝙩𝙮, 𝙄𝙣𝙙𝙞𝙖𝙣𝙖 (812) 398-5050
* 𝙍𝙞𝙘𝙝𝙖𝙧𝙙 𝘽𝙧𝙤𝙬𝙣, 𝙒𝙖𝙧𝙙𝙚𝙣 𝙒𝙖𝙗𝙖𝙨𝙝 𝙑𝙖𝙡𝙡𝙚𝙮 𝘾𝙤𝙧𝙧𝙚𝙘𝙩𝙞𝙤𝙣𝙖𝙡 𝙁𝙖𝙘𝙞𝙡𝙞𝙩𝙮, 𝙄𝙣𝙙𝙞𝙖𝙣𝙖 (812) 398-5050
*𝙘𝙤𝙣𝙩𝙖𝙘𝙩 𝙑𝙞𝙧𝙜𝙞𝙣𝙖 𝘿𝙊𝘾 𝙖𝙪𝙩𝙝𝙤𝙧𝙞𝙩𝙞𝙚𝙨 𝙗𝙚𝙘𝙖𝙪𝙨𝙚 𝙑𝘼 𝙥𝙧𝙞𝙨𝙤𝙣𝙚𝙧𝙨 𝙩𝙧𝙖𝙣𝙨𝙛𝙚𝙧𝙧𝙚𝙙 𝙤𝙣 𝙞𝙣𝙩𝙚𝙧-𝙨𝙩𝙖𝙩𝙚 𝙘𝙤𝙢𝙥𝙖𝙘𝙩𝙨 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:
P.O. Box 45699
Lucasville, OH 45699
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:
I don’t usually do this. This is discussing my self. I find it far more interesting to tell the stories of other, the revolving globe on which we dwell and the stories spawn by the fragile human condition and the struggles of humanity for liberation.
But I digress, uncomfortably.
This commentary is about the commentator.
Several weeks ago I underwent a medical procedure known as open heart surgery, a double bypass after it was learned that two vessels beating through my heart has significant blockages that impaired heart function.
This impairment was fixed by extremely well trained and young cardiologist who had extensive experience in this intricate surgical procedure.
I tell you I had no clue whatsoever that I suffered from such disease. Now to be perfectly honest, I feel fine.
Indeed, I feel more energetic than usual!
I thank you all, my family and friends, for your love and support.
Onwards to freedom with all my heart.
Questions and comments may be sent to: email@example.com
Resources for Resisting Federal Repression
Since June of 2020, activists have been subjected to an increasingly aggressive crackdown on protests by federal law enforcement. The federal response to the movement for Black Lives has included federal criminal charges for activists, door knocks by federal law enforcement agents, and increased use of federal troops to violently police protests.
The NLG National Office is releasing this resource page for activists who are resisting federal repression. It includes a link to our emergency hotline numbers, as well as our library of Know-Your-Rights materials, our recent federal repression webinar, and a list of some of our recommended resources for activists. We will continue to update this page.
Please visit the NLG Mass Defense Program page for general protest-related legal support hotlines run by NLG chapters.
If you are contacted by federal law enforcement you should exercise all of your rights. It is always advisable to speak to an attorney before responding to federal authorities.
State and Local Hotlines
If you have been contacted by the FBI or other federal law enforcement, in one of the following areas, you may be able to get help or information from one of these local NLG hotlines for:
- Portland, Oregon: (833) 680-1312
- San Francisco, California: (415) 285-1041 or firstname.lastname@example.org
- Seattle, Washington: (206) 658-7963
If you are located in an area with no hotline, you can call the following number:
Know Your Rights Materials
The NLG maintains a library of basic Know-Your-Rights guides.
- Know Your Rights During Covid-19
- You Have The Right To Remain Silent: A Know Your Rights Guide for Encounters with Law Enforcement
- Operation Backfire: For Environmental and Animal Rights Activists
WEBINAR: Federal Repression of Activists & Their Lawyers: Legal & Ethical Strategies to Defend Our Movements: presented by NLG-NYC and NLG National Office
We also recommend the following resources:
Center for Constitutional Rights
Civil Liberties Defense Center
- Grand Juries: Slideshow
Grand Jury Resistance Project
Movement for Black Lives Legal Resources
Tilted Scales Collective
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.”
By Vanessa Barbara, Sept. 15, 2021
Ms. Barbara is a contributing Opinion writer who focuses on Brazilian politics, culture and everyday life.
Claire Merchlinsky/The New York Times; Photographs by AFP, Heuler Andrey via Getty Images
SÃO PAULO, Brazil — For weeks, President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil has been urging his supporters to take to the streets. So on Sept. 7, Brazil’s Independence Day, I was half expecting to see mobs of armed people in yellow-and-green jerseys, some of them wearing furry hats and horns, storming the Supreme Court building — our very own imitation of the Capitol riot.
Fortunately, that was not what happened. (The crowds eventually went home, and no one tried to sit in the Supreme Court justices’ chairs.) But Brazilians were not spared chaos and consternation.
For Mr. Bolsonaro, it was a show of force. In the morning, addressing a crowd of around 400,000 people in Brasília, he said he intended to use the size of the crowd as an “ultimatum for everyone” in the three branches of government. In the afternoon, at a demonstration in São Paulo of 125,000 people, the president called the elections coming in 2022 “a farce” and said that he will no longer abide by rulings from one of the Supreme Court justices. “I’m letting the scoundrels know,” he bellowed, “I’ll never be imprisoned!”
It seems to be part of a plan. By picking a fight in particular with the Supreme Court — which has opened several investigations of him and his allies, including of his role in a potentially corrupt vaccine procurement scheme and his efforts to discredit Brazil’s voting system — Mr. Bolsonaro is attempting to sow the seeds of an institutional crisis, with a view to retaining power. On Sept. 9 he tried to back down a little, saying in a written statement that he “never intended to attack any branch of government.” But his actions are plain: He is effectively threatening a coup.
Perhaps that’s the only way out for Mr. Bolsonaro. (Apart from properly governing the country, something that apparently doesn’t interest him.) The antics of the president, struggling in the polls and menaced by the prospect of impeachment, are a sign of desperation. But that doesn’t mean they can’t succeed.
Mr. Bolsonaro has good reason to be desperate. The government’s mishandling of the Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in the deaths of 587,000 Brazilians; the country faces record rates of unemployment and economic inequality; and it’s also afflicted by soaring inflation, poverty and hunger. Oh, and there’s a huge energy crisis on the way, too.
That has taken its toll on Mr. Bolsonaro’s standing with Brazilians. In July, his disapproval rating rose to 51 percent, its highest-ever mark, according to Datafolha Institute. And ahead of next year’s presidential elections, things are not looking rosy. In fact, polling suggests he’s going to lose. Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, the center-left politician and former president, is comfortably outstripping Mr. Bolsonaro. As things stand, Mr. Bolsonaro would lose to all possible rivals in a second-round runoff.
This explains Mr. Bolsonaro’s eagerness to push unfounded claims of fraud in Brazil’s electronic voting system. “There’s no way of proving whether the elections were rigged or not,” he said about past elections (including the one he won), during a two-hour TV broadcast in July, while failing to provide any evidence to support his allegations. He has repeatedly threatened to call off the elections if the current voting system remains in place — and although Congress recently rejected his proposal to require paper receipts, he continues to cast doubt on the voting process. (Sound familiar, anyone?)
Then there’s the corruption. A growing number of corruption accusations have been made against the president and two of his sons, who both hold public office. (One is a senator; the other sits on Rio de Janeiro’s City Council.) Prosecutors have suggested that the Bolsonaro family took part in a scheme known as “rachadinha,” which involves hiring close associates or family members as employees and then pocketing a portion of their salary.
For Mr. Bolsonaro, who was elected in part for his promise to rout out corruption, these investigations cast a long shadow. Against this backdrop of ineptitude and scandal, the events of Sept. 7 were an attempt to distract and divert attention — and, of course, to cement divisions.
Efforts to remove Mr. Bolsonaro by parliamentary means are stalled. Though the opposition has so far filed 137 impeachment requests, the process must be initiated by the speaker of the lower house, Arthur Lira, who does not seem inclined to accept them. (That’s not especially surprising: Mr. Lira is a leader of a cluster of center-right parties, known as the “centrão,” to whom Mr. Bolsonaro has handed out important government positions, in the hope of shielding himself from impeachment proceedings.) Only enormous public protests can break the impasse.
There’s no time to lose. The demonstrations last week were not simply political showmanship. They were yet another move to strengthen Mr. Bolsonaro’s position for an eventual power grab ahead of next year’s elections. He didn’t get exactly what he wanted — the numbers, though substantial, were far less than organizers hoped for — but he will keep trying.
Sept. 7 now marks another signal moment in Brazil’s history — when the totalitarian aims of our president became unmistakably clear. For our young democracy, it could be a matter of life or death.
A huge power failure after Hurricane Ida left vulnerable residents in sweltering apartments for days. At least 10 deaths in the city have been tied to the heat.
By Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs and Katy Reckdahl, Sept. 15, 2021
Iley Joseph, left, with his older son, Iley Joseph Jr., and grandson. Credit...via Iley Joseph Jr.
NEW ORLEANS — In many ways, Iley Joseph’s one-bedroom apartment was an ideal place to ride out a hurricane. It was on the third floor — much too high to flood — of a building that was sturdy and new, part of a sleek, gated community for older residents like him.
But in the days after Hurricane Ida, his home began to feel like a trap. The huge power failure that cut off electricity to New Orleans rendered Mr. Joseph’s air-conditioner useless and his refrigerator nothing more than a cupboard. Even worse, the outage froze the complex’s elevators in place, sealing him inside the building because his health problems prevented him from using the stairs.
Mr. Joseph, 73, insisted in telephone conversations with his sons that he was doing just fine. But in his apartment, No. 312, it kept getting hotter. On Sept. 2, the fourth day after the storm hit — the hottest yet — a friend found him lying still on the side of his bed.
“I call his name, he doesn’t respond,” said the friend, Jared Righteous. “I realized he was gone.”
Only in recent days, as the last lights flickered back on in New Orleans, have officials here discovered the true toll of Hurricane Ida. Unlike in the Northeast, where many who perished were taken by floodwaters and tornadoes, heat has emerged as the greatest killer in New Orleans.
Of 14 deaths caused by the storm in the city, Mr. Joseph’s and nine others are believed to be tied to the heat. Experts say there are probably more. And friends of those who died have begun to ask whether the government or apartment landlords could have done more to protect older residents before they died, often alone, in stiflingly hot homes.
“Heat is a hazard that we simply haven’t given sufficient attention to,” said David Hondula, a professor at Arizona State University who studies the effects of sweltering temperatures. “All cities are in the early stages of understanding what an effective heat response looks like.”
In New Orleans, officials set up air-conditioned cooling centers across the city and distributed food, water and ice around town. But for residents like Mr. Joseph who could not leave their buildings, the aid might as well have been worlds away.
All 10 people whose deaths have been tied to the heat were in their 60s and 70s, and they died over four broiling days, the last of which was Sept. 5, a full week after the storm.
Among the first was Corinne Labat-Hingle, a 70-year-old woman who had fled to Memphis during Hurricane Katrina but returned to New Orleans and was living at an apartment complex for older people near Saint Bernard Avenue, a short walk from the city’s largest park. She was found dead on Sept. 2, when the temperature reached 93 degrees outdoors and was most likely higher inside her apartment. Two days later, another 93-degree day, four people were found dead, including Reginald Logan, 74, whose body was discovered after a neighbor saw flies in his window. On Sept. 5, the heat index reached 101, and one of the last victims of the heat was found dead: Keith Law, a 65-year-old man who lived in the Algiers neighborhood.
Heat most likely contributes to more deaths each year than are officially recorded, Professor Hondula said. Though the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports fewer than 700 heat-related deaths a year, some studies have estimated 5,000 to 12,000. Last month, The New York Times found that 600 more people died in Oregon and Washington in the last week of June, during a heat wave, than normally would have, a number three times the state officials’ estimates of heat-related deaths.
This comes as heat waves are growing more frequent, longer lasting and more dangerous. The 2018 National Climate Assessment, a major scientific report by 13 federal agencies, notes that the number of hot days is increasing, and the frequency of heat waves in the United States jumped from an average of two per year in the 1960s to six per year by the 2010s.
People who die from the heat may not recognize their symptoms as life-threatening, and heat-related deaths can also occur suddenly, with little warning. The most frequent cause is cardiovascular failure, when the heart cannot pump blood fast enough. Less frequent are deaths from heat stroke, when a person’s internal temperature rises by several degrees and the body cannot cool off, causing organs like the brain, heart or kidneys to fail.
Laura Bergerol, a 65-year-old New Orleans photographer, died on Sept. 5. She had planned to evacuate to Florida before the storm but told friends she had trouble finding a hotel room. By the time she arranged plans, it was too dangerous to leave. After the storm, an errant $400 charge on her bank account had left her without enough money to get out. She stocked up on candles and hunkered down in her second-floor apartment in an affordable complex built for artists in the Bywater neighborhood downriver from the French Quarter.
“Missed my window of opportunity,” she wrote on Twitter. “Curse you #HurricaneIda.”
Neighbors said Ms. Bergerol largely stayed in her apartment with the doors and windows closed. Still, she seemed to be surviving. On Sept. 3, she texted Josh Hailey, a neighbor, asking if she could visit his cat while he was out. “I have plenty of treats,” she wrote. The next day, she joined neighbors in the building’s courtyard for a showing of “Cinderella.”
On Sunday Mr. Hailey let himself into her apartment when she did not answer the door. He found her lying on the floor and tried to resuscitate her, but it was too late. That evening, the neighbors played brass-band music in the courtyard and danced for Ms. Bergerol, recalling her vivid blue eyes and frequent, wide smile.
By then, city health officials had begun to realize the danger that older residents were facing. A day before Ms. Bergerol’s death, they evacuated eight apartments for older residents, including several where people had died. Now, city officials are considering mandating, during natural disasters, that subsidized apartments serving older or disabled residents have generators, conduct welfare checks or have a building manager on the property at all times, a spokesman said.
The proposed measures are gaining momentum partly because of deaths like that of Mr. Joseph, the man stuck in apartment 312.
Mr. Joseph was well known at Village de Jardin, a relatively affordable complex in New Orleans East for people 55 and older. It is owned by the Louisiana Housing Corporation, a state agency, and managed by Latter & Blum, a large real estate company that manages properties across several states. The housing agency said Latter & Blum had encouraged tenants to evacuate and then, after the storm, brought cooling buses to the property and supplies to tenants who chose to stay.
Mr. Joseph had retired years ago from a job selling car parts. He frequently chatted with neighbors, and his routine included grabbing coffee and beignets around town. He was known for his faith, his love of his family and, to some, his trademark reply, “Yes, indeed,” which led his grandchildren to call him Grandpa Yes Indeed. Many more people knew him for his humor, which is how he became friends with Mr. Righteous, 45, who was drawn to Mr. Joseph when he was cracking jokes at an event hosted by the Franklin Avenue Baptist Church.
In the days after the hurricane, neighbors looked out for Mr. Joseph, who was subsisting on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. One friend brought him a warm plate of food. A neighbor across the hall charged Mr. Joseph’s phone using a car battery and an inverter.
But Sept. 2 was the most grueling day yet. Around 1:45 p.m., the heat index was nearing 103, and Mr. Joseph’s phone had died again. He poked his head outside his door and motioned for a woman in the hallway to come closer. The woman, Rhonda Quinn, thought he looked unwell and asked if he needed some air. He brushed her off, joking that after days in the heat, he smelled too bad to go out, she said.
What he did need, he said, was to charge his phone to make a call. Ms. Quinn found someone to help, but when she tried to return the phone sometime before 3 p.m., he did not answer her repeated knocks. She assumed he had gone out, and she left.
Shortly after, Mr. Joseph’s friend from church, Mr. Righteous, pulled into the complex’s parking lot with a bag of oatmeal cream pies and other snacks. He, too, received no answer after knocking on Mr. Joseph’s door. When he opened it, he found Mr. Joseph slumped to the side of the bed, as if he had been sitting on its edge and looking out the window.
His death has left his two sons grief-stricken and stunned, unable to understand how their father could make it through the hurricane’s wrath without a scratch only to perish in the heat that followed.
“He didn’t die from flooding, he didn’t die from a lightning bolt,” said his oldest son, Iley Joseph Jr., 45. “It’s just, he’s gone.”
“It’s life-changing money for Rickia and her family,” a lawyer for Rickia Young said. “But what she went through was equally life-changing.”
By Vimal Patel, Sept. 15, 2021
Danielle Outlaw, the police commissioner of Philadelphia, said in a statement that the behavior of some police officers involved in the encounter with Rickia Young in October “violated the mission of the Philadelphia Police Department.” Credit...Matt Rourke/Associated Press
The city of Philadelphia has agreed to pay $2 million to a young Black mother after police officers smashed the windows of the sport utility vehicle she was in, yanked her out and beat her after she inadvertently found herself in a police barricade last fall, the woman’s lawyers said on Tuesday.
The encounter happened as the woman, Rickia Young, was in the presence of her toddler and the 16-year-old son of a family friend who were also in the vehicle, said Kevin Mincey, one of Ms. Young’s lawyers.
“It’s life-changing money for Rickia and her family,” Mr. Mincey said of the settlement in an interview. “But what she went through was equally life-changing.”
The episode occurred on Oct. 27, 2020, amid protests in the aftermath of the fatal shooting of Walter Wallace Jr., a 27-year-old Black man who the police said was armed with a knife.
Hours after Mr. Wallace’s killing on Oct. 26, in a cellphone video taken by a bystander, an S.U.V. is seen at a police barricade, and officers quickly surround the vehicle. Ms. Young, her lawyers say, was not part of the protest but had picked up the teenager, who was stuck in West Philadelphia and was “afraid of the growing tensions between the police and those protesting Mr. Wallace’s killing.”
When she started to head back home, the lawyers said, she found herself amid a large group of protesters and police officers, on a blocked-off Chestnut Street. She tried to make a U-turn but had to stop to avoid hitting protesters who began running by her vehicle, her lawyers said.
“Suddenly and without warning,” Riley Ross, another lawyer for Ms. Young, said at a news conference on Tuesday, “a pack of Philadelphia police officers wearing riot gear and wielding batons descended on the car, smashing multiple windows of the vehicle. The officers then violently yanked Ms. Young and her nephew from the vehicle and physically beat her, and him, in the street, causing significant injuries.”
She was bruised and her face was bloodied, Mr. Mincey said, adding that she had emotional distress, all of which was taken into consideration in the settlement.
Ms. Young’s lawyers also said that the national Fraternal Order of Police’s legislative liaison, in a since-deleted post, shared a photo of a police officer holding Ms. Young’s toddler just moments after she was arrested to show that the police were protecting a child wandering amid riots from harm.
Danielle Outlaw, the police commissioner of Philadelphia, said in a statement on Tuesday that the behavior of some police officers involved in the encounter with Ms. Young “violated the mission of the Philadelphia Police Department.”
“As a matter of fact, the ability for officers and supervisors on the scene to diffuse the situation was abandoned,” Ms. Outlaw said, “and instead of fighting crime and the fear of crime, some of the officers on the scene created an environment that terrorized Rickia Young, her family and other members of the public.”
After an internal affairs investigation, two officers have been fired and 14 are awaiting disciplinary proceedings through the department’s Police Board of Inquiry, a city spokesman said.
A phone message left for the local chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police, which is representing the officers involved in the matter, was not immediately answered on Tuesday night.
Mayor Jim Kenney said in a statement that what Ms. Young and those with her experienced was “absolutely appalling.”
“This terrible incident, which should have never happened to anyone, only further strained the relationship between the Police Department and our communities,” he said. “The officers’ inexcusable actions that evening prompted an immediate and thorough investigation of the incident and for personnel to be disciplined and held accountable for their egregious conduct.”
He added, “I hope that the settlement and investigations into the officers’ actions bring some measure of closure to Ms. Young and her family.”
Ms. Young, 29, and her lawyers also want criminal charges filed against the police officers involved.
“It’s clear criminal conduct — there’s no question about it,” Mr. Mincey said.
Larry Krasner, the Philadelphia district attorney, said on Tuesday night: “It would be inappropriate under the law for us to comment on whether or not an investigation exists at this time. At a later time, we will have more to say.”
Speaking in general terms, Mr. Krasner said that cases like Ms. Young’s were complicated because they were chaotic and it could be hard to determine which officers were responsible for what actions, especially when they were all wearing the same clothing.
“When you’re dealing with that scenario and you have grainy cellphone footage that isn’t capturing the things you want to capture in a criminal investigation,” he said, “that is another difficulty.”
The International Criminal Court will investigate the killings of thousands under President Rodrigo Duterte. His lawyer says it has no authority to do so.
By Jason Gutierrez, Sept. 16, 2021
The funeral of Alvin Jhon Mendoza, 23, also killed by unknown gunmen in 2016. Credit...Daniel Berehulak for The New York Times
MANILA — A lawyer for President Rodrigo Duterte said on Thursday that International Criminal Court representatives would be denied entry to the Philippines, a day after the Hague-based tribunal authorized a full investigation into Mr. Duterte’s bloody war on drugs.
A three-judge panel at the court said on Wednesday that the antidrug campaign, which has left thousands dead, appeared to have been “a widespread and systematic attack against the civilian population.” It based that assessment on evidence presented by prosecutors, who have been carrying out a preliminary investigation since 2018.
Salvador Panelo, a lawyer for Mr. Duterte, reiterated on Thursday the president’s stance that the court had no authority to investigate him. Mr. Duterte pulled the Philippines out of the treaty that established the tribunal after it began its preliminary investigation.
“They will violate our rights if they persist with the investigation, because that would mean meddling in the domestic affairs of our country,” said Mr. Panelo, who added that the Philippine justice system was adequately dealing with any crimes committed during the drug war.
“The country will not allow anyone from the I.C.C. to come in and gather information and evidence here in the Philippines,” Mr. Panelo said. “They will be barred entry.”
The national police say their officers have killed at least 8,000 people suspected to have been drug dealers or addicts since Mr. Duterte took office in 2016, after running for president on a promise to fill Manila Bay with the bodies of narcotics traffickers.
But Philippine rights groups, who welcomed the court’s announcement, say that even that number vastly understates the drug war’s true toll, and that thousands more have been slain by pro-government vigilantes.
“Many of the killings were done in police operations, but even so-called vigilante killings were part of the war on drugs,” said Llore Pasco, who became an activist after two of her sons were killed by the police in 2017. “There was no due process and no respect for human rights.”
The I.C.C. said it would also investigate killings that took place in the city of Davao when Mr. Duterte was its mayor, before he became president. He has been accused of running a death squad there that eliminated political rivals as well as suspected drug dealers and addicts. The court’s investigation will cover the period from November 2011 to March 2019, when the Philippines formally withdrew from the I.C.C. treaty.
In a statement, the court said that “based on the facts as they emerge at the present stage and subject to proper investigation and further analysis, the so-called ‘war on drugs’ campaign cannot be seen as a legitimate law enforcement operation, and the killings neither as legitimate nor as mere excesses in an otherwise legitimate operation.
“Rather, the available material indicates, to the required standard, that a widespread and systematic attack against the civilian population took place pursuant to or in furtherance of a state policy,” it said.
Ms. Pasco, the activist, had two sons, one 33 and the other 32, who were killed by the police in Quezon City, a Manila suburb, in May 2017. She said they had used drugs in the past, but had given them up; the police said they were part of a robbery gang, which she denies. She said the court’s announcement was “like the sun shining on us now, brightly.”
Another grieving mother turned activist, Normita Lopez, lost her 23-year-old son, Djastin Lopez, in a police shooting the same year. “Nothing is going to bring back Djastin, but we can help to make sure that no one is killed anymore,” she said.
Mr. Duterte has repeatedly said that he would never be tried by the international court. He once said that Fatou Bensouda, then a prosecutor for the tribunal, would be arrested if she came to the Philippines.
Interior Secretary Eduardo Año, who controls the national police, said on Thursday that they were prepared to assist with an I.C.C. investigation, but he added that “this is a policy matter where only the president has the authority to decide whether to allow a nonlocal inquiry or not.”
“Hence, we shall abide by the guidance of the president,” Mr. Año said.
Mr. Duterte’s six-year term ends next year, and under the Philippines’ Constitution he cannot run for a second. But he hopes to run for the vice presidency in conjunction with a political ally, who, if he won the presidency, would be in a position to shield Mr. Duterte from the tribunal.
Edre Olalia, president of the National Union of People’s Lawyers, which provides legal assistance to people who lost family members in the drug war, said that time was running out for Mr. Duterte, but that the killings were continuing.
On Wednesday night, even as the news from the Hague court was reaching the Philippines, a lawyer in Mr. Olalia’s organization, Juan Macababbad, was gunned down in the southern city of Cotabato by unknown people, he said.
“It was July 4, 2016, when we first publicly called out against the madness of the extrajudicial killings in the bloody drug campaign against the poor,” Mr. Olalia said. “Now the I.C.C. has opened the doors for a new beginning — it has been a long and torturous journey so far.”
“It is all worth it,” he said. “It will be worth it.”
The temporary camp in Del Rio has grown with staggering speed in recent days during a massive surge in migration that has overwhelmed the authorities.
By James Dobbins, Eileen Sullivan and Edgar Sandoval, Published Sept. 16, 2021, Updated Sept. 17, 2021https://www.nytimes.com/2021/09/16/us/texas-migrants-del-rio.html
Migrants gathered under the Del Rio International Bridge as they waited to turn themselves in to the U.S. Border Patrol and seek asylum. Credit...Verónica G. Cárdenas for The New York Times
DEL RIO, Texas — Thousands of migrants were crowded under a bridge outside the border community of Del Rio on Thursday, part of a massive surge in migration across the Rio Grande this week that has overwhelmed the authorities and caused significant delays in processing the arrivals.
The U.S. Border Patrol said that more than 9,000 migrants, mostly from Haiti, were being held in a temporary staging area under the Del Rio International Bridge as agents worked as quickly as they could to process them.
The temporary camp has grown with staggering speed in recent days, from just a few hundred people earlier in the week. The authorities and city officials said they expected thousands more to cross the ankle-deep river between Mexico and Del Rio in coming days.
The Border Patrol said it would send more agents to the region, “to immediately address the current level of migrant encounters and to facilitate a safe, humane and orderly process.” The shaded area under the bridge, the Border Patrol said, was to “prevent injuries from heat-related illness” while migrants were waiting to be taken into custody.
The scene — of dense crowds sleeping on dirt or milling about in triple-digit heat amid conditions of deteriorating sanitation — drew condemnations from local officials. Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas ordered the state police and the National Guard to assist border agents in Del Rio, saying the federal response had not been enough to quell the surge in crossings.
“The Biden administration is in complete disarray and is handling the border crisis as badly as the evacuation from Afghanistan,” he said, referring to President Biden’s decision to end America’s longest war.
The Southwest border has been inundated in recent months with a surge in unauthorized crossings not seen in more than two decades. More than 200,000 people crossed last month, bringing the total this fiscal year to more than 1.5 million.
But in recent days, the swelling crowds in Del Rio, a town about 150 miles west of San Antonio that is surrounded by ranch land, acres of thorny brush and towering mesquite trees, have created a new humanitarian challenge.
Bruno Lozano, the city’s mayor, described on Thursday squalid conditions under the bridge that more so resembled a shantytown, with little access to clean water and food and just a few portable toilets. The vast majority of those who arrived appeared to be fleeing Haiti, the Caribbean country still reeling from a series of natural disasters and the assassination in July of its president, Jovenel Moïse, local officials said.
“There are 9,000 people really anxious and stressed,” said Mr. Lozano, who has asked federal officials to support his city of 35,000 residents.
The Del Rio border sector has seen high migrant traffic this year, particularly from Haitians who started arriving in much higher numbers beginning in June, when there were more than twice as many caught crossing the border illegally than in the previous month. And the numbers continued to go up in July and August, according to recent border statistics.
Earlier this week, even more Haitians were caught trying to cross through the Del Rio region, a desolate 245-mile stretch of the United States border with Mexico. By Thursday, the Department of Homeland Security sent additional officers to the region to help relieve the backup, according to an official familiar with the plans who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the person was not authorized to speak publicly about the matter.
The government also plans to fly some of the migrants to other parts of the border that are not experiencing a surge like Del Rio’s. And return flights to Haiti are set to begin on Monday, as well, which the Biden administration hopes will signal to other Haitians that they should not try to cross the southern border.
The administration has come under intense pressure from Republicans for its handling of the border. In recent months, Mr. Abbott instructed state law enforcement to arrest migrants for trespassing to deter illegal immigration, because, he said, the Biden administration was not.
While the Biden administration had discussed repealing a Trump-era public health rule put in place at the beginning of the pandemic that blocked many asylum seekers from coming into the country, the administration ultimately put off plans because of the high number of migrants crossing the southern border illegally and the resurgence of the coronavirus in recent months.
But on Thursday, a judge in Texas ordered that the administration stop turning migrant families away under the public health rule, starting in 14 days. Because of humanitarian exemptions and other reasons, the administration has only been turning away a fraction of the families who have been caught at the southern border. In August, it used the public health rule to turn away about 18 percent of the families that crossed the border without documentation, according to recent border data. But any increase in processing migrants into the country could strain the already-stretched system.
This latest surge in Del Rio comes during a small management shake-up at the Department of Homeland Security, with the secretary’s chief of staff, the assistant secretary for border and immigration policy and the top prosecutor at Immigration and Customs Enforcement recently announcing plans to leave the agency at the end of the month.
The city of Del Rio, located in a southwest patch of the state on the Edwards Plateau, just across the Rio Grande from Ciudad Acuña, Mexico, has experienced a relentless wave of migration since this spring, in part because its remoteness makes it easier to cross, officials said.
Immigration agents were releasing so many migrants into town in March that residents complained that the spike would drain the town’s limited resources. Victor Escalon, the South Texas regional director for the state’s Department of Public Safety, said dozens of arrests for criminal trespassing, of migrants crossing illegally, had overwhelmed the local jails.
“We have to put the pressure and deter the activity,” said Mr. Escalon, who is leading Operation Lone Star, a program created by Mr. Abbott this year that allows him to send resources and hundreds of state agents to border communities.
Tiffany Burrow, the operations director for the Val Verde Humanitarian Border Coalition’s migrant respite center, said she worried the group’s resources would not be enough to accommodate this week’s deluge.
“We can’t help that many people,” Ms. Burrow said. “The city is not going to sustain all these people. The city under the bridge could become bigger than Del Rio.”
In typical times, the group helps about 300 migrants a day connect with transportation to their final destination in the United States.
By late afternoon on Thursday, the immense crowds of adults and children could be seen crammed beneath the bridge in the sweltering heat. Many could expect to wait up to two weeks before being processed by border agents and then taken to a shelter, officials said.
Among those waiting were a couple from Cuba who are expecting their first child. On Thursday, they watched with growing distress as the amount of people awaiting processing grew to unimaginable numbers.
“The conditions are not good,” said Yanet, 46, who preferred not to use her last name. “I had to take a bath in the river. There was a lot of dust under the bridge.”
While waiting, the migrants have access to 22 portable toilets but no running water. They mostly feed themselves with food bought in Mexico, running back and forth across the Rio Grande. At night they sleep on packed dirt beneath the bright glare of floodlights, surveillance equipment and armed border guards.
By Colin Jerolmack, September 17, 2021
Photographs by Tristan Spinski
Mr. Jerolmack is the author of “Up to Heaven and Down to Hell: Fracking, Freedom, and Community in an American Town,” which tells the story of the Crawleys and other families in Pennsylvania.https://www.nytimes.com/2021/09/17/opinion/sunday/fracking-pennsylvania-water-contamination.html
I first encountered Tom Crawley eight years ago, when I attended a town hall hosted by a Republican state representative, Garth Everett, in the cavernous volunteer firehall of Hughesville, a hamlet nestled in the Appalachian foothills of North Central Pennsylvania.
I’m an environmental sociologist, and I had recently moved to the area to conduct a study of how shale gas extraction — better known as fracking — was changing rural community life. Attending public meetings like this one seemed like a good way to take the pulse of residents’ concerns.
Mr. Everett, a folksy, flannel-clad politician, started the meeting by giving the decidedly older and almost entirely white crowd of 75 or so an overview of his involvement in various legislative committees. He sprinkled his remarks with a few jabs at the state capital, Harrisburg (where it’s hard to find good sauerkraut) and his “urban” colleagues, whose “world and culture is very different than ours.” Many in the respectful audience smiled and dutifully took notes.
During the question and answer session, Mr. Everett called on many of his constituents by name. But the spirit of bonhomie was ruptured when Tom Crawley, seated near the back, stood up and declared, “I’ve got a contaminated well as a result of [a petroleum company] that you know about!” (The Crawleys have asked me not to name the company.)
Mr. Everett tried to lower the temperature, acknowledging that the drilling of a nearby gas well very likely impacted the Crawleys’ and their neighbors’ drinking water and apologizing for not following up with the state Department of Environmental Protection to find out what the agency was doing to hold the gas company responsible. Mr. Crawley wasn’t having it. He’d already arranged his own meeting with the D.E.P., he said, after Mr. Everett failed to return his calls.
“We’ve had to do this all on our own,” he fumed. “I thought that you could have done more to help us out.” After Mr. Crawley’s neighbor, Jim Finkler, complained that the water coming out his faucet looked like soda because it was so infused with methane, Mr. Crawley added, “When this first started, we were told this wasn’t gonna happen. And if it did happen, we were assured, ‘Oh we’ll take care of it.’ Well, now it happened and no one is taking care of it!” (When I spoke with Mr. Everett later, he said that he had tried unsuccessfully to get the petroleum company to take responsibility; he told me that he regretted that “I couldn’t fix it.”)
As Mr. Crawley left in a huff after the meeting, I approached him in hopes of arranging an interview. But Ralph Kisberg of the Responsible Drilling Alliance and a few other anti-fracking advocates got to him first. It was just as well. Although he had stated earlier that “none of us was against this in the beginning,” Mr. Crawley seemed to be poised to become an “accidental activist” whose experience with contamination would turn him into a vocal opponent of the industry. I figured that Mr. Crawley would welcome Mr. Kisberg’s assistance, and that he and his neighbors would eagerly tell their story to me, or anyone who would listen, soon enough.
I learned the next day from Mr. Kisberg that Mr. Crawley, who acted as the informal spokesman for the group of six neighbors on Green Valley Road whose water was tainted by gas drilling, politely told the Responsible Drilling Alliance that he and his neighbors wanted nothing to do with them. He also refused to divulge additional details about his experience, or even his name, to the local reporter who wrote about the town hall meeting.
As for me, it wasn’t until the last week of my eight-month residency in Lycoming County that I finally got through to Mr. Crawley and his wife Mary — and only after a friend of theirs, whom I had interviewed, vouched for me and I agreed not to share their story before my book was published.
After climbing a steep gravel driveway up the hillside from a small creek named Sugar Run, I found the gray-haired and bespectacled empty-nesters seated in Adirondack chairs in the front yard of their quaint 8.69-acre homestead. A shaggy dog named Ollie was parked at their feet. This part of the property, Mr. Crawley explained, was a remnant of his grandfather’s 93-acre dairy farm. As a young man, Mr. Crawley realized he “didn’t want to yank” cows’ teats for the rest of his life and found work in a machine shop. But he was proud to have remained on a sliver of the ancestral estate and constructed a home of his own, completed in 1993, that overlooked Crawley Road.
“Mary and I grew up next door to each other,” Mr. Crawley recounted as he cast a mischievous smile at his wife. I asked if they were elementary school sweethearts. “Definitely not, no,” Tom chortled. “Not even high school!” He added, “Matter of fact, if somebody had gone up to her when she graduated from college and said she’d be married to me for” — before he could finish, Mrs. Crawley interjected, “Almost 35 years.” Mr. Crawley continued, “she would probably” — Mrs. Crawley again finished his sentence, “I’ve had said, yeah, right, and moved on.”
As we got to know one another, I almost forgot why I had come to see the Crawleys in the first place. But a tall, white plastic pipe protruding from the ground near the cap of their water well on the side yard served as a subtle reminder. After their water was infused with explosive levels of methane, the petroleum company that had drilled the suspect gas well on a neighbor’s property installed the pipe to vent as much gas as possible before the groundwater made its way into the house, although the company denied responsibility for the high concentration of methane in their water. The Pennsylvania D.E.P., however, determined that the cause was nearby gas drilling and had cited the energy firm for “failure to report defective, insufficient, or improperly cemented casing” of the gas well located on the Crawleys’ neighbor’s property.
Over the two years that had elapsed since the Crawleys stopped drinking their water, the D.E.P. and local politicians had, as they saw it, done nothing to hold the gas company accountable. The Crawleys were at their wit’s end. “Do we have the money for a lawyer for something like this?” Mr. Crawley asked rhetorically. “No, we’re not gonna fight a corporation with hundreds of millions of dollars and all their lawyers at their disposal.” Mrs. Crawley added, “We can’t afford to move out and build another house or go someplace else at this point.” She confessed to “standing there at the kitchen sink,” which spat fizzing water, “crying about I can’t take any more of this.”
I couldn’t understand why the Crawleys refused to go public with their story — which might pressure the petroleum company to remedy the situation, or speak with the Responsible Drilling Alliance — who vowed to help them secure a pro bono lawyer. They had nothing to lose, I thought. But as I sat and listened, I learned that the Crawleys’ decision to stay quiet wasn’t about what was in it for them. It was about defending their community.
“The couple that has the property the well is on now, they — I work with their daughter and she says that Mom and Dad really feel bad about this all happening,” Mr. Crawley explained. His wife chimed in, “They’re very upset. He’s afraid everybody would blame him.” Mr. Crawley emphasized that his “major concern with this whole deal is somebody harassing” his neighbors or “camping out” on their property.
The idea was not as outlandish as it might sound. Mrs. Crawley recalled driving past the Riverdale Mobile Home Park, whose residents were being forced out to make way for a facility that would withdraw water from the river to frack gas wells, in the summer of 2012 and seeing a bunch of “picketers” from “out of the area that just came in and camped up there” as part of what supporters called Occupy Riverdale. As Mr. Crawley put it, “These people have no interest in this area other than creating a stink.” Mrs. Crawley shook her head in disgust, “Just like over there in Susquehanna County when Yoko Ono and Sean Lennon came out.” She was referring to a tour bus that “Artists Against Fracking” had chartered in January, 2013 to ferry celebrities and journalists from New York City to the area to publicize cases of alleged contamination.
“Do you have the right to come protesting in my area because of something that’s not gonna affect you and you live 100, 200 miles away?,” Mr. Crawley asked of the so-called fractivists. He wondered how many of them “live in a high-rise building that’s heated by gas.” Indeed, sociological research indicates that anti-fracking activism is not, for the most part, NIMBYism — it’s largely a not in your backyard movement spearheaded by progressives living in urban and coastal areas (most fracking occurs in the heartland, and most people who live there support it).
One might think that rural support for fracking can be explained solely through selfishness: Landowners (including the Crawleys) received compensation for leasing their subsurface mineral rights to petroleum companies, and fracking is purported to lift the economies of struggling rust belt towns. But what I found so striking about the Crawleys was that they insisted they were not against fracking, even after they came out losers in the fracking lottery.
Part of their reasoning was that fracking benefited others, like their neighbor whose family farm was no longer a millstone to unload now that it was bringing in gas royalties, or the friend who was laid off but found a better-paying job driving a water truck for the oil and gas industry. In other words, it mattered to the Crawleys that their neighbors supported fracking and benefited from it. They feared that “raising a stink” about their problem might invite greater oversight of the industry that would ultimately make it harder for others in the community to profit from fracking.
And then there’s the fractivists themselves. The Crawleys were hardly alone in viewing those opposed to fracking as “outsiders” to the community who, in the words of Representative Everett, “have no clue about rural values.” The disruptive tactics of some anti-fracking groups, along with their message of greater government regulation over personal land-use decisions, violated the small-town community norms that mattered a lot to people like the Crawleys: civility, civic association, self-reliance and land sovereignty. Viewed in this light, the Crawleys’ continued public support of fracking, and their dismissal of environmentalists, was a way of showing solidarity with the community and protecting its ostensibly rural way of life.
The Crawleys did eventually talk to a lawyer from an environmental nonprofit; the firm he recommended helped them quietly reach a settlement. They used some of the money to build a cozy new den, complete with ceiling beams salvaged from Mr. Crawley’s great-grandfather’s barn and a hearth made from fieldstones they collected. Mrs. Crawley splurged on a Kawasaki Mule 4010 off-road vehicle; her husband got a cherry red Ford Mustang. Prudently, they also purchased burial plots.
But the vent over their water well, and the methane detectors in their house, are still there. Without explaining why, in 2016 the D.E.P. rescinded the multimillion-dollar fine it levied against the energy company even though the Crawleys’ faucet — and Sugar Run — still gurgle with methane.
Of the six neighbors on Green Valley Road who settled with the petroleum company, only the Crawleys remain. Mr. Finkler died unexpectedly of cancer. But the rest abandoned their homes and moved far away.
When I visited with the Crawleys one last time before my book was published this past spring, Mrs. Crawley said they were happy with the settlement, but added: “It’s weird. All of our friends are gone.” Despite the Crawleys’ best efforts, they lost the one thing they cherished more than clean water: their community.
By John J. Lennon, September 16, 2021
Mr. Lennon, a contributing editor for Esquire, has been incarcerated since 2002.
FALLSBURG, N.Y. — Bobby Ehrenberg knew he would probably die in prison.
Back in 1992, he killed a Long Island jewelry store owner during a robbery, and wound up with 50 years to life. He would be 83 by the time he’d have a chance to see a parole board.
I first met him in prison in 2004, when I was 27 and settling in for 28 years to life for murder and selling drugs. Bobby, then 45, had a combative personality, but we soon started talking smack and sniffing dope together in the yard. A couple of years later, I went to solitary, transferred to a different prison and lost touch with him.
Then last year I landed here in the Sullivan Correctional Facility and we reconnected. He’d changed his life in the years between. In 2012, he had what he called an epiphany. He’d gotten sober and earned a bachelor’s degree; he was class valedictorian. He taught an algebra class for several years and dedicated himself to mentoring younger guys.
“You can’t reach everyone but sometimes I reached a couple of guys in that classroom,” he said. “You can — not literally but figuratively — see the light come on. And that’s great.”
Last month, a corrections officer asked Bobby, now 62, to report to the disciplinary office immediately. He went in. A few minutes later, I saw the cell block gates motor open, and a wide-eyed Bobby, paper in hand, approached me: “John, I got clemency! I’m going home in September!”
In New York State, the governor has the power to grant clemency to prisoners in the form of reprieves, commutations and pardons, at her “sole discretion.” (Parole is handled by a separate entity.) A pardon wipes out a conviction, while a commutation reduces a sentence. Just before stepping down, Gov. Andrew Cuomo granted executive clemency to Bobby and nine others. Bobby’s term was commuted, and he would soon walk free.
Over the next few days, Bobby, who’s always seemed a bit miserable, was vibrating with joy. People around us seemed happy for him, too. Even a grumpy old man in our block who wasn’t on speaking terms with Bobby shook his hand. It’s moving to see someone get mercy, especially when you’re looking for it too.
But many of us are perplexed about clemency. Who deserves mercy? Can we earn it? If our victims won’t forgive us, will a governor? And why should mercy fall on the grace of the governor alone?
In Mr. Cuomo’s decade in office, he granted a total of 41 commutations. He left a heaping pile of petitions for his replacement, Kathy Hochul, to sort out: a total of 3,682 commutation and pardon applications have been filed since the beginning of 2020, according to the state corrections department.
The governor is supposed to consider a petitioner’s ability to “remain at liberty without violating the law” as well as “exceptional strides in self-development and improvement.” As Governor Hochul faces that stack of documents, she has a rare opportunity to bring more order and integrity to the clemency process.
For those serving life sentences for violent crimes, clemency can feel like the only way out. I can’t, for example, see my parole board before serving 28 years. But in many cases, you can apply for clemency after serving half your sentence. New York prisons hold 301 people serving life sentences without a chance of parole and 6,745 with sentences that have a maximum of life, according to the corrections department. That means that more than 20 percent of prisoners in the state face the chance of dying behind bars.
Yet getting clemency seems almost whimsical, with so much riding on unpredictable events like a governor’s sudden fall, a victim’s forgiveness or the representation of an effective lawyer. The process itself is opaque. In New York, the Executive Clemency Bureau, a unit of the state corrections department, receives applications and begins a review, then sends completed petitions to the governor for her to consider. But we need a panel that goes further: one that centers the voices and experiences of prisoners and their advocates.
Letters of recommendation written in our clemency applications play a major role. Though civilians like college professors, religious and other volunteers are technically able to submit comments, in reality tight restrictions and red tape make it very hard for them to be our advocates.
In other words, the people who know me best are unable to fully support me. That’s one of the reasons I’ve never applied for clemency, even though I’ve been eligible for six years. The creative writing instructor who taught the workshop in Attica that changed my life can’t explain how he saw me transform my cocky convict attitude into a confident voice on the page, and how that led to a career publishing features in national magazines from prison. My sponsor in the Attica 12-step program can’t relay conversations we had about what I’d done and who I hope to be, and how shame and pride — two sides of the same coin — are in constant conflict inside me.
Meanwhile, superintendents, usually former corrections officers, almost always make recommendations. But these people don’t know us. I’ve been incarcerated for two decades and served time in five maximum security joints. I’ve never once had a heart-to-heart conversation with a superintendent, and that’s typical. Even though I don’t like the word congratulations, since I don’t necessarily see clemency as an earned accomplishment (I wouldn’t note it on my C.V.), it stuck out to me that none of the administrators congratulated Bobby on getting clemency or wished him well.
To supplement the work of the Executive Clemency Bureau, Ms. Hochul should appoint a statewide clemency advisory panel with experts in rehabilitation, re-entry and restorative justice, as well as a formerly incarcerated person. The panel could recommend the most compelling candidates for the governor to commute every quarter. This would remind my peers that redemption is being recognized regularly, and motivate them to reform. Even conservative states like South Dakota and South Carolina have boards that either make clemency decisions directly or advise the governor, resulting in more grants of clemency than in some more liberal states.
I also wish prisoners had more of a voice in the clemency application processes of our peers. We often grow by being vulnerable with other men through years of lapping yard perimeters together.
If I could have written a letter in support of my friend Michael Tineo’s petition, for example, I would have described the times when he talked me through my depression as I stood outside his cell. I would have written about the time that Michael dedicated his college valedictorian speech at Sing Sing to his teenage daughter in the audience. We all wept.
I wish I could have written a letter for my friend Michael Shane Hale, who despite being ridiculed by others for being gay, did great work facilitating a re-entry class, teaching men to administer naloxone to reverse opiate overdoses, write strong résumés and find information on housing and employment. Shane, who earned a master’s degree in Sing Sing, is serving 50 years to life for killing his lover over 25 years ago. I was impressed with how he chose to help others prepare to leave the place where he would likely die.
Last month, Bobby drafted an oped essay arguing for his friend Stanley Bellamy’s sentence to be commuted. Stanley and Bobby graduated from college and tutored men together in Sullivan. While helping Bobby edit the draft, I was stuck on one line he wrote: “Stan had been a troubled young man when he committed the crimes that led to a death-by-incarceration sentence that left him no room for redemption.”
But, I asked, wasn’t his argument that Stanley’s redemption was being overlooked? Bobby told me through his cell bars that redemption can never be fully achieved in a correctional setting, only in society. I’m glad that Bobby gets to demonstrate his redemption as a free man, but I refuse to accept that a governor needs to validate redemption for it to exist.
Real redemption stories live in here, and I can only hope Ms. Hochul designates the right people to discover them in the pile of petitions that sit on her desk.
Israeli agents had wanted to kill Iran’s top nuclear scientist for years. Then they came up with a way to do it with no operatives present.
By Ronen Bergman and Farnaz Fassihi, Sept. 18, 2021
“The souped-up, remote-controlled machine gun now joins the combat drone in the arsenal of high-tech weapons for remote targeted killing. But unlike a drone, the robotic machine gun draws no attention in the sky, where a drone could be shot down, and can be situated anywhere, qualities likely to reshape the worlds of security and espionage. …The American officials briefed about the assassination plan in Washington supported it, according to an official who was present at the meeting."
Iran’s top nuclear scientist woke up an hour before dawn, as he did most days, to study Islamic philosophy before his day began.
That afternoon, he and his wife would leave their vacation home on the Caspian Sea and drive to their country house in Absard, a bucolic town east of Tehran, where they planned to spend the weekend.
Iran’s intelligence service had warned him of a possible assassination plot, but the scientist, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, had brushed it off.
Convinced that Mr. Fakhrizadeh was leading Iran’s efforts to build a nuclear bomb, Israel had wanted to kill him for at least 14 years. But there had been so many threats and plots that he no longer paid them much attention.
Despite his prominent position in Iran’s military establishment, Mr. Fakhrizadeh wanted to live a normal life. He craved small domestic pleasures: reading Persian poetry, taking his family to the seashore, going for drives in the countryside.
And, disregarding the advice of his security team, he often drove his own car to Absard instead of having bodyguards drive him in an armored vehicle. It was a serious breach of security protocol, but he insisted.
So shortly after noon on Friday, Nov. 27, he slipped behind the wheel of his black Nissan Teana sedan, his wife in the passenger seat beside him, and hit the road.
An Elusive Target
Since 2004, when the Israeli government ordered its foreign intelligence agency, the Mossad, to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, the agency had been carrying out a campaign of sabotage and cyberattacks on Iran’s nuclear fuel enrichment facilities. It was also methodically picking off the experts thought to be leading Iran’s nuclear weapons program.
Since 2007, its agents had assassinated five Iranian nuclear scientists and wounded another. Most of the scientists worked directly for Mr. Fakhrizadeh (pronounced fah-KREE-zah-deh) on what Israeli intelligence officials said was a covert program to build a nuclear warhead, including overcoming the substantial technical challenges of making one small enough to fit atop one of Iran’s long-range missiles.
Israeli agents had also killed the Iranian general in charge of missile development and 16 members of his team.
But the man Israel said led the bomb program was elusive.
In 2009, a hit team was waiting for Mr. Fakhrizadeh at the site of a planned assassination in Tehran, but the operation was called off at the last moment. The plot had been compromised, the Mossad suspected, and Iran had laid an ambush.
This time they were going to try something new.
Iranian agents working for the Mossad had parked a blue Nissan Zamyad pickup truck on the side of the road connecting Absard to the main highway. The spot was on a slight elevation with a view of approaching vehicles. Hidden beneath tarpaulins and decoy construction material in the truck bed was a 7.62-mm sniper machine gun.
Around 1 p.m., the hit team received a signal that Mr. Fakhrizadeh, his wife and a team of armed guards in escort cars were about to leave for Absard, where many of Iran’s elite have second homes and vacation villas.
The assassin, a skilled sniper, took up his position, calibrated the gun sights, cocked the weapon and lightly touched the trigger.
He was nowhere near Absard, however. He was peering into a computer screen at an undisclosed location more than 1,000 miles away. The entire hit squad had already left Iran.
Reports of a Killing
The news reports from Iran that afternoon were confusing, contradictory and mostly wrong.
A team of assassins had waited alongside the road for Mr. Fakhrizadeh to drive by, one report said. Residents heard a big explosion followed by intense machine gun fire, said another. A truck exploded ahead of Mr. Fakhrizadeh’s car, then five or six gunmen jumped out of a nearby car and opened fire. A social media channel affiliated with the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps reported an intense gun battle between Mr. Fakhrizadeh’s bodyguards and as many as a dozen attackers. Several people were killed, witnesses said.
One of the most far-fetched accounts emerged a few days later.
Several Iranian news organizations reported that the assassin was a killer robot, and that the entire operation was conducted by remote control. These reports directly contradicted the supposedly eyewitness accounts of a gun battle between teams of assassins and bodyguards and reports that some of the assassins had been arrested or killed.
Iranians mocked the story as a transparent effort to minimize the embarrassment of the elite security force that failed to protect one of the country’s most closely guarded figures.
“Why don’t you just say Tesla built the Nissan, it drove by itself, parked by itself, fired the shots and blew up by itself?” one hard-line social media account said.
Thomas Withington, an electronic warfare analyst, told the BBC that the killer robot theory should be taken with “a healthy pinch of salt,” and that Iran’s description appeared to be little more than a collection of “cool buzzwords.”
Except this time there really was a killer robot.
The straight-out-of-science-fiction story of what really happened that afternoon and the events leading up to it, published here for the first time, is based on interviews with American, Israeli and Iranian officials, including two intelligence officials familiar with the details of the planning and execution of the operation, and statements Mr. Fakhrizadeh’s family made to the Iranian news media.
The operation’s success was the result of many factors: serious security failures by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, extensive planning and surveillance by the Mossad, and an insouciance bordering on fatalism on the part of Mr. Fakhrizadeh.
But it was also the debut test of a high-tech, computerized sharpshooter kitted out with artificial intelligence and multiple-camera eyes, operated via satellite and capable of firing 600 rounds a minute.
The souped-up, remote-controlled machine gun now joins the combat drone in the arsenal of high-tech weapons for remote targeted killing. But unlike a drone, the robotic machine gun draws no attention in the sky, where a drone could be shot down, and can be situated anywhere, qualities likely to reshape the worlds of security and espionage.
‘Remember That Name’
Preparations for the assassination began after a series of meetings toward the end of 2019 and in early 2020 between Israeli officials, led by the Mossad director, Yossi Cohen, and high-ranking American officials, including President Donald J. Trump, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the C.I.A. director, Gina Haspel.
Israel had paused the sabotage and assassination campaign in 2012, when the United States began negotiations with Iran leading to the 2015 nuclear agreement. Now that Mr. Trump had abrogated that agreement, the Israelis wanted to resume the campaign to try to thwart Iran’s nuclear progress and force it to accept strict constraints on its nuclear program.
In late February, Mr. Cohen presented the Americans with a list of potential operations, including the killing of Mr. Fakhrizadeh. Mr. Fakhrizadeh had been at the top of Israel’s hit list since 2007, and the Mossad had never taken its eyes off him.
In 2018, Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, held a news conference to show off documents the Mossad had stolen from Iran’s nuclear archives. Arguing that they proved that Iran still had an active nuclear weapons program, he mentioned Mr. Fakhrizadeh by name several times.
“Remember that name,” he said. “Fakhrizadeh.”
The American officials briefed about the assassination plan in Washington supported it, according to an official who was present at the meeting.
Both countries were encouraged by Iran’s relatively tepid response to the American assassination of Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, the Iranian military commander killed in a U.S. drone strike with the help of Israeli intelligence in January 2020. If they could kill Iran’s top military leader with little blowback, it signaled that Iran was either unable or reluctant to respond more forcefully.
The surveillance of Mr. Fakhrizadeh moved into high gear.
As the intelligence poured in, the difficulty of the challenge came into focus: Iran had also taken lessons from the Suleimani killing, namely that their top officials could be targeted. Aware that Mr. Fakhrizadeh led Israel’s most-wanted list, Iranian officials had locked down his security.
His security details belonged to the elite Ansar unit of the Revolutionary Guards, heavily armed and well trained, who communicated via encrypted channels. They accompanied Mr. Fakhrizadeh’s movements in convoys of four to seven vehicles, changing the routes and timing to foil possible attacks. And the car he drove himself was rotated among four or five at his disposal.
Israel had used a variety of methods in the earlier assassinations. The first nuclear scientist on the list was poisoned in 2007. The second, in 2010, was killed by a remotely detonated bomb attached to a motorcycle, but the planning had been excruciatingly complex, and an Iranian suspect was caught. He confessed and was executed.
After that debacle, the Mossad switched to simpler, in-person killings. In each of the next four assassinations, from 2010 to 2012, hit men on motorcycles sidled up beside the target’s car in Tehran traffic and either shot him through the window or attached a sticky-bomb to the car door, then sped off.
But Mr. Fakhrizadeh’s armed convoy, on the lookout for such attacks, made the motorcycle method impossible.
The planners considered detonating a bomb along Mr. Fakhrizadeh’s route, forcing the convoy to a halt so it could be attacked by snipers. That plan was shelved because of the likelihood of a gangland-style gun battle with many casualties.
The idea of a pre-positioned, remote-controlled machine gun was proposed, but there were a host of logistical complications and myriad ways it could go wrong. Remote-controlled machine guns existed and several armies had them, but their bulk and weight made them difficult to transport and conceal, and they had only been used with operators nearby.
Time was running out.
By the summer, it looked as if Mr. Trump, who saw eye to eye on Iran with Mr. Netanyahu, could lose the American election. His likely successor, Joseph R. Biden Jr., had promised to reverse Mr. Trump’s policies and return to the 2015 nuclear agreement that Israel had vigorously opposed.
If Israel was going to kill a top Iranian official, an act that had the potential to start a war, it needed the assent and protection of the United States. That meant acting before Mr. Biden could take office. In Mr. Netanyahu’s best-case scenario, the assassination would derail any chance of resurrecting the nuclear agreement even if Mr. Biden won.
Mohsen Fakhrizadeh grew up in a conservative family in the holy city of Qom, the theological heart of Shia Islam. He was 18 when the Islamic revolution toppled Iran’s monarchy, a historical reckoning that fired his imagination.
He set out to achieve two dreams: to become a nuclear scientist and to take part in the military wing of the new government. As a symbol of his devotion to the revolution, he wore a silver ring with a large, oval red agate, the same type worn by Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and by General Suleimani.
He joined the Revolutionary Guards and climbed the ranks to general. He earned a Ph.D. in nuclear physics from Isfahan University of Technology with a dissertation on “identifying neutrons,” according to Ali Akbar Salehi, the former head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Agency and a longtime friend and colleague.
He led the missile development program for the Guards and pioneered the country’s nuclear program. As research director for the Defense Ministry, he played a key role in developing homegrown drones and, according to two Iranian officials, traveled to North Korea to join forces on missile development. At the time of his death, he was deputy defense minister.
“In the field of nuclear and nanotechnology and biochemical war, Mr. Fakhrizadeh was a character on par with Qassim Suleimani but in a totally covert way,” Gheish Ghoreishi, who has advised Iran’s Foreign Ministry on Arab affairs, said in an interview.
When Iran needed sensitive equipment or technology that was prohibited under international sanctions, Mr. Fakhrizadeh found ways to obtain them.
“He had created an underground network from Latin America to North Korea and Eastern Europe to find the parts that we needed,” Mr. Ghoreishi said.
Mr. Ghoreishi and a former senior Iranian official said that Mr. Fakhrizadeh was known as a workaholic. He had a serious demeanor, demanded perfection from his staff and had no sense of humor, they said. He seldom took time off. And he eschewed media attention.
Most of his professional life was top secret, better known to the Mossad than to most Iranians.
His career may have been a mystery even to his children. His sons said in a television interview that they had tried to piece together what their father did based on his sporadic comments. They said they had guessed that he was involved in the production of medical drugs.
When international nuclear inspectors came to call, they were told that he was unavailable, his laboratories and testing grounds off limits. Concerned about Iran’s stonewalling, the United Nations Security Council froze Mr. Fakhrizadeh’s assets as part of a package of sanctions on Iran in 2006.
Although he was considered the father of Iran’s nuclear program, he never attended the talks leading to the 2015 agreement.
The black hole that was Mr. Fakhrizadeh’s career was a major reason that even when the agreement was completed, questions remained about whether Iran still had a nuclear weapons program and how far along it was.
Iran has steadfastly insisted that its nuclear program was for purely peaceful purposes and that it had no interest in developing a bomb. Ayatollah Khamenei had even issued an edict declaring that such a weapon would violate Islamic law.
But investigators with the International Atomic Energy Agency concluded in 2011 that Iran had “carried out activities relevant to the development of a nuclear device.” They also said that while Iran had dismantled its focused effort to build a bomb in 2003, significant work on the project had continued.
According to the Mossad, the bomb-building program had simply been deconstructed and its component parts scattered among different programs and agencies, all under Mr. Fakhrizadeh’s direction.
In 2008, when President George W. Bush was visiting Jerusalem, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert played him a recording of a conversation Israeli officials said took place a short time before between a man they identified as Mr. Fakhrizadeh and a colleague. According to three people who say they heard the recording, Mr. Fakhrizadeh spoke explicitly about his ongoing effort to develop a nuclear warhead.
A spokesman for Mr. Bush did not reply to a request for comment. The New York Times could not independently confirm the existence of the recording or its contents.
Programming a Hit
A killer robot profoundly changes the calculus for the Mossad.
The organization has a longstanding rule that if there is no rescue, there is no operation, meaning a foolproof plan to get the operatives out safely is essential. Having no agents in the field tips the equation in favor of the operation.
But a massive, untested, computerized machine gun presents a string of other problems.
The first is how to get the weapon in place.
Israel chose a special model of a Belgian-made FN MAG machine gun attached to an advanced robotic apparatus, according to an intelligence official familiar with the plot. The official said the system was not unlike the off-the-rack Sentinel 20 manufactured by the Spanish defense contractor Escribano.
But the machine gun, the robot, its components and accessories together weigh about a ton. So the equipment was broken down into its smallest possible parts and smuggled into the country piece by piece, in various ways, routes and times, then secretly reassembled in Iran.
The robot was built to fit in the bed of a Zamyad pickup, a common model in Iran. Cameras pointing in multiple directions were mounted on the truck to give the command room a full picture not just of the target and his security detail, but of the surrounding environment. Finally, the truck was packed with explosives so it could be blown to bits after the kill, destroying all evidence.
There were further complications in firing the weapon. A machine gun mounted on a truck, even a parked one, will shake after each shot’s recoil, changing the trajectory of subsequent bullets.
Also, even though the computer communicated with the control room via satellite, sending data at the speed of light, there would be a slight delay: What the operator saw on the screen was already a moment old, and adjusting the aim to compensate would take another moment, all while Mr. Fakhrizadeh’s car was in motion.
The time it took for the camera images to reach the sniper and for the sniper’s response to reach the machine gun, not including his reaction time, was estimated to be 1.6 seconds, enough of a lag for the best-aimed shot to go astray.
The A.I. was programmed to compensate for the delay, the shake and the car’s speed.
Another challenge was to determine in real time that it was Mr. Fakhrizadeh driving the car and not one of his children, his wife or a bodyguard.
Israel lacks the surveillance capabilities in Iran that it has in other places, like Gaza, where it uses drones to identify a target before a strike. A drone large enough to make the trip to Iran could be easily shot down by Iran’s Russian-made antiaircraft missiles. And a drone circling the quiet Absard countryside could expose the whole operation.
The solution was to station a fake disabled car, resting on a jack with a wheel missing, at a junction on the main road where vehicles heading for Absard had to make a U-turn, some three quarters of a mile from the kill zone. That vehicle contained another camera.
At dawn Friday, the operation was put into motion. Israeli officials gave the Americans a final heads up.
The blue Zamyad pickup was parked on the shoulder of Imam Khomeini Boulevard. Investigators later found that security cameras on the road had been disabled.
As the convoy left the city of Rostamkala on the Caspian coast, the first car carried a security detail. It was followed by the unarmored black Nissan driven by Mr. Fakhrizadeh, with his wife, Sadigheh Ghasemi, at his side. Two more security cars followed.
The security team had warned Mr. Fakhrizadeh that day of a threat against him and asked him not to travel, according to his son Hamed Fakhrizadeh and Iranian officials.
But Mr. Fakhrizadeh said he had a university class to teach in Tehran the next day, his sons said, and he could not do it remotely.
Ali Shamkhani, the secretary of Supreme National Council, later told the Iranian media that intelligence agencies even had knowledge of the possible location of an assassination attempt, though they were uncertain of the date.
The Times could not verify whether they had such specific information or whether the claim was an effort at damage control after an embarrassing intelligence failure.
Iran had already been shaken by a series of high-profile attacks in recent months that in addition to killing leaders and damaging nuclear facilities made it clear that Israel had an effective network of collaborators inside Iran.
The recriminations and paranoia among politicians and intelligence officials only intensified after the assassination. Rival intelligence agencies — under the Ministry of Intelligence and the Revolutionary Guards — blamed each other.
A former senior Iranian intelligence official said that he heard that Israel had even infiltrated Mr. Fakhrizadeh’s security detail, which had knowledge of last-minute changes to his movement, the route and the time.
But Mr. Shamkhani said there had been so many threats over the years that Mr. Fakhrizadeh did not take them seriously.
He refused to ride in an armored car and insisted on driving one of his cars himself. When he drove with his wife, he would ask the bodyguards to drive a separate car behind him instead of riding with them, according to three people familiar with his habits.
Mr. Fakhrizadeh may have also found the idea of martyrdom attractive.
“Let them kill,” he said in a recording Mehr News, a conservative outlet, published in November. “Kill as much as they want, but we won’t be grounded. They’ve killed scientists, so we have hope to become a martyr even though we don’t go to Syria and we don’t go to Iraq.”
Even if Mr. Fakhrizadeh accepted his fate, it was not clear why the Revolutionary Guards assigned to protect him went along with such blatant security lapses. Acquaintances said only that he was stubborn and insistent.
If Mr. Fakhrizadeh had been sitting in the rear, it would have been much harder to identify him and to avoid killing anyone else. If the car had been armored and the windows bulletproofed, the hit squad would have had to use special ammunition or a powerful bomb to destroy it, making the plan far more complicated.
Shortly before 3:30 p.m., the motorcade arrived at the U-turn on Firuzkouh Road. Mr. Fakhrizadeh’s car came to a near halt, and he was positively identified by the operators, who could also see his wife sitting beside him.
The convoy turned right on Imam Khomeini Boulevard, and the lead car then zipped ahead to the house to inspect it before Mr. Fakhrizadeh arrived. Its departure left Mr. Fakhrizadeh’s car fully exposed.
The convoy slowed down for a speed bump just before the parked Zamyad. A stray dog began crossing the road.
The machine gun fired a burst of bullets, hitting the front of the car below the windshield. It is not clear if these shots hit Mr. Fakhrizadeh but the car swerved and came to a stop.
The shooter adjusted the sights and fired another burst, hitting the windshield at least three times and Mr. Fakhrizadeh at least once in the shoulder. He stepped out of the car and crouched behind the open front door.
According to Iran’s Fars News, three more bullets tore into his spine. He collapsed on the road.
The first bodyguard arrived from a chase car: Hamed Asghari, a national judo champion, holding a rifle. He looked around for the assailant, seemingly confused.
Ms. Ghasemi ran out to her husband. “They want to kill me and you must leave,” he told her, according to his sons.
She sat on the ground and held his head on her lap, she told Iranian state television.
The blue Zamyad exploded.
That was the only part of the operation that did not go as planned.
The explosion was intended to rip the robot to shreds so the Iranians could not piece together what had happened. Instead, most of the equipment was hurled into the air and then fell to the ground, damaged beyond repair but largely intact.
The Revolutionary Guards’ assessment — that the attack was carried out by a remote-controlled machine gun “equipped with an intelligent satellite system” using artificial intelligence — was correct.
The entire operation took less than a minute. Fifteen bullets were fired.
Iranian investigators noted that not one of them hit Ms. Ghasemi, seated inches away, accuracy that they attributed to the use of facial recognition software.
Hamed Fakhrizadeh was at the family home in Absard when he received a distress call from his mother. He arrived within minutes to what he described as a scene of “full-on war.” Smoke and fog clouded his vision, and he could smell blood.
“It was not a simple terrorist attack for someone to come and fire a bullet and run,” he said later on state television. “His assassination was far more complicated than what you know and think. He was unknown to the Iranian public, but he was very well known to those who are the enemy of Iran’s development.”
Eric Schmitt, Julian E. Barnes and Adam Goldman contributed reporting.
In an opinion essay in The Washington Post titled “Why I violated Texas’s extreme abortion ban,” Dr. Alan Braid wrote, “I am taking a personal risk, but it’s something I believe in strongly.”
By Michael Levenson, Sept. 18, 2021
An ultrasound machine and exam table inside a clinic in Texas. A new state law prohibits most abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy, before many women are even aware they are pregnant. Credit...Ilana Panich-Linsman for The New York Times
A Texas doctor disclosed on Saturday that he had performed an abortion in defiance of a new state law that bans most abortions after six weeks of pregnancy, setting up a potential test case of one of the most restrictive abortion measures in the nation.
In an opinion essay published in The Washington Post under the headline “Why I violated Texas’s extreme abortion ban,” the doctor, Alan Braid, who has been performing abortions for more than 40 years, said that he performed one on Sept. 6 for a woman who, although still in her first trimester, was beyond the state’s new limit.
“I acted because I had a duty of care to this patient, as I do for all patients, and because she has a fundamental right to receive this care,” Dr. Braid wrote. “I fully understood that there could be legal consequences — but I wanted to make sure that Texas didn’t get away with its bid to prevent this blatantly unconstitutional law from being tested.”
Dr. Braid’s disclosure was the latest — and perhaps most direct — salvo by supporters of abortion rights who have been fighting to stop the law, which prohibits most abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy, before many women are even aware that they are pregnant. The law makes no exception for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest.
Even before his disclosure, Dr. Braid, who has operated abortion clinics in Houston and San Antonio as well as in Oklahoma, was already challenging the law in court. His clinics are among the plaintiffs in a pending federal lawsuit seeking to overturn the measure.
On Sept. 1, the Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision prompted by the lawsuit, declined to immediately block Texas’ new law. The majority stressed that it was not ruling on the law’s constitutionality and did not intend to limit “procedurally proper challenges” to it.
On Tuesday, the Justice Department asked a federal judge to issue an order that would prevent Texas from enforcing the law, known as Senate Bill 8, which was passed with the strong support of the state’s Republican leaders.
The Justice Department argued in its emergency motion that the state adopted the law “to prevent women from exercising their constitutional rights,” reiterating an argument the department made last week when it sued Texas to prohibit enforcement of the contentious legislation.
At the center of the legal debate over the law is a mechanism that essentially deputizes private citizens, rather than government officials, to enforce the new restrictions by suing anyone who either performs an abortion or “aids and abets” the procedure. Plaintiffs who have no connection to the patient or to the clinic may sue and recover legal fees, as well as $10,000 if they win. Patients themselves cannot be sued.
“I understand that by providing an abortion beyond the new legal limit, I am taking a personal risk, but it’s something I believe in strongly,” Dr. Braid wrote.
Nancy Northup, president and chief executive of the Center for Reproductive Rights, which is already representing Dr. Braid in his clinics’ pending lawsuit, said in a statement that he had “courageously stood up against this blatantly unconstitutional law.”
“We stand ready to defend him against the vigilante lawsuits that S.B. 8 threatens to unleash against those providing or supporting access to constitutionally protected abortion care,” she said in a statement.
Texas Right to Life, an anti-abortion group that had been seeking tips on any doctors who might be violating the new law, said in a statement that it was “looking into this claim but we are dubious that this is just a legal stunt.”
“The abortion industry has struck out on their 16 previous attempts to stop this law from saving lives so far and this may be another attempt,” the group said. “However, there is a four-year statute of limitations for any violations and the Pro-Life movement is dedicated to ensuring that the Texas Heartbeat Act is fully enforced.”
In an interview on Saturday, Dr. Braid declined to say whether the woman whose abortion he performed on Sept. 6 had been informed that her procedure could be part of a test case against the new law. “I’m not going to answer any questions about the patient in any way,” he said.
He said that he had consulted with lawyers from the Center for Reproductive Rights and hoped that, by publicly stating that he had performed an abortion, he might contribute to the campaign to invalidate the law.
“I hope the law gets overturned,” he said, “and if this is what does it, that would be great.”
In his opinion essay, Dr. Braid noted that his career began with an obstetrics and gynecology residency at a San Antonio hospital on July 1, 1972, just before Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that established a constitutional right to abortion.
“At the hospital that year, I saw three teenagers die from illegal abortions,” he wrote. “One I will never forget. When she came into the E.R., her vaginal cavity was packed with rags. She died a few days later from massive organ failure, caused by a septic infection.”
Roe v. Wade, he wrote, “enabled me to do the job I was trained to do.” Then, this month, “everything changed” with the Supreme Court decision not to block the Texas law.
“I have daughters, granddaughters and nieces,” Dr. Braid wrote. “I believe abortion is an essential part of health care. I have spent the past 50 years treating and helping patients. I can’t just sit back and watch us return to 1972.”
By Amanda Macias, Published September 17, 2021, Updated September 17, 2021https://www.cnbc.com/2021/09/17/us-airstrike-in-kabul-last-month-killed-10-civilians-including-seven-children-pentagon-says.htm
· “As the combatant commander, I am fully responsible for this strike and its tragic outcome,” U.S. Marine Corps Gen. Kenneth McKenzie said.
· The U.S. is considering reparation payments to surviving family members, the general said.
· The Pentagon originally said the strike killed two ISIS-K fighters believed to be involved in planning attacks against U.S. forces in Kabul.
· The drone strike came after a suicide bomb attack by ISIS-K that resulted in the deaths of 13 U.S. service members and dozens of Afghans near Kabul’s airport.
WASHINGTON – The Pentagon admitted Friday that a U.S. drone strike in Kabul, Afghanistan last month killed as many as 10 civilians including up to seven children.
“As the combatant commander, I am fully responsible for this strike and its tragic outcome,” U.S. Marine Corps Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, commander of U.S. Central Command, told reporters.
“I offer my profound condolences to the family and friends of those who were killed,” McKenzie said.
The drone strike came on the heels of a suicide bomb attack by the terrorist group ISIS-K that resulted in the deaths of 13 U.S. service members and dozens of Afghans near Hamid Karzai International Airport, where colossal evacuation efforts were underway as the U.S. pulled out from Afghanistan.
“This strike was taken in the earnest belief that it would prevent an imminent threat to our forces and the evacuees at the airport, but it was a mistake,” McKenzie said.
The U.S. is considering reparation payments to surviving family members, the general said. However, McKenzie said making such payments could prove difficult because the U.S. no longer has a presence in Afghanistan.
The Pentagon originally said the strike, which was launched Aug. 29, killed two ISIS-K fighters believed to be involved in planning attacks against U.S. forces in Kabul.
Army Maj. Gen. William Taylor said at the time of the strike that there were no known civilian casualties. Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said the U.S. did not notify nor coordinate with the Taliban ahead of the strike. He added that the Defense Department did not notify other countries in the region nor U.S. lawmakers.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, describing the civilian deaths as a “horrible mistake,” ordered a review to determine whether “accountability measures” need to be taken and procedures changed.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., expressed concern about the Defense Department’s transparency immediately after the strike and whether its public statements included all the information the government had available at the time.
“This is an area deserving of additional oversight, and along with my colleagues in Congress, the House Intelligence Committee will continue to press for answers,” Schiff said.
In April, President Joe Biden ordered the full withdrawal of approximately 3,000 U.S. troops from Afghanistan by Sept. 11. He later updated the timeline to Aug. 31.
In the final weeks of the planned exodus of foreign forces from the country, the Taliban carried out a succession of shocking battlefield gains. On Aug. 15, the group captured the presidential palace in Kabul, triggering Western governments to accelerate evacuation efforts of at-risk Afghan nationals, diplomats and civilians.
Following the Taliban takeover, Biden defended his decision to withdraw U.S. service members from Afghanistan, but ordered the temporary deployment of thousands of U.S. troops to Kabul in order to help with evacuation efforts.
The U.S. military mission in Afghanistan ended on Aug. 31 after the evacuation of approximately 125,000 people. Of that total, about 6,000 were U.S. citizens and their families.
By Ghazaleh Moayedi, Septeber 20, 2021
Dr. Moayedi is an obstetrician-gynecologist who provides abortion care in Texas and Oklahoma.https://www.nytimes.com/2021/09/20/opinion/texas-abortion-provider.html
It’s not brave for me to be an abortion provider in Texas. This is my home, too. I have a lot of support from my community. I work at several types of clinics here and in Oklahoma — independent ones, mostly. I went to medical school with the express intent to provide abortions in my home state.
We were shut down in Texas before, when Covid first hit the state in March of last year and Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order suspending “all surgeries and procedures that are not immediately medically necessary.” At first, we weren’t sure how it was going to be interpreted. I spent that Monday calling all the patients I could, telling them to come in immediately to get an ultrasound in the event I would be able to at least give them pills the next day. We weren’t sure if the shutdown was just going to affect procedures or also the dispensing of pills. So I just rushed the whole day, trying to take care of people, only to get back to my desk and see the attorney general’s statement, which made it clear to me that the order applied to all abortion care.
I became licensed to practice medicine in Oklahoma after we were shut down. Though the suspension of abortion care in Texas lasted only a month, I continued to travel to Oklahoma periodically and intend to keep doing so.
With the passage of the new law, Senate Bill 8, there is a lot we don’t know. According to the law, anyone who aids or abets someone to get an abortion after cardiac activity is detected — the so-called heartbeat — which can be as early as the sixth week of pregnancy, or anyone who provides the abortion care is liable to be sued. For one, I don’t know if I’m even allowed to advise patients to travel outside the state. That doesn’t seem illegal, but we have started to see some mobilization from the opposition against anyone who refers patients to out-of-state abortion care. My lawyers are concerned that I would be seen as aiding and abetting by helping people get out of the state.
In other words, those restrictions leave us with questions. We don’t know: Can Texas come after people who assist someone in leaving the state? Does that mean that if you’re in Texas and you get a pregnancy diagnosis after six weeks, then it is illegal for you to ever get an abortion anywhere? It boggles the mind to think about how abortion opponents think that this law can be extended and used, but I am an obstetrician-gynecologist, and it is my ethical duty to take care of people. It is also my ethical duty to refer those patients elsewhere when I’m barred from taking care of them where they are. When I am in a place where I can take care of them, if possible, I am going to advise them to travel to me. That is also my ethical duty.
It’s not just abortion care I am worried about. All pregnancies have now become more dangerous in Texas. There are a few reasons for that. For one, we know that death from childbirth is considerably higher than with induced abortion. And childbirth is especially dangerous in a state like Texas, with our abysmal maternal mortality rates. That doesn’t mean we should fear pregnancy. But since pregnancy can be dangerous, you should have to consent to continue a pregnancy, right. And people need to do it with a full heart and understanding.
The other thing that makes pregnancy more dangerous has less to do with having or desiring an abortion: Pregnancies that face complications will now be at greater risk. Under this new law, the only abortion exception allowed is for a medical emergency. That might mean if a woman will imminently lose an organ or die without intervention. But how we judge that risk will play out individually with each hospital’s policy, in each clinic.
I can think of no other area of health care in which we would wait for someone to worsen nearly to the point of death before we offered intervention. It’s just unconscionable.
Many years ago in my practice, I cared for a pregnant person who had heart failure. Her heart function was at 20 percent or less of what it should be. But the hospital decided that it was not bad enough that we could offer her an abortion. We know that the heart is incredibly strained during pregnancy. We expand the amount of blood that we have in our bodies in preparation for the blood loss that we will have during childbirth, but that expansion of blood volume puts a huge burden on the heart and makes it work a lot more. So someone who is in the late first or early second trimester and has a heart function of 15 to 20 percent is only going to see those numbers worsen as that pregnancy advances. She then faces a serious risk of dying from a heart attack.
What worries me most is that the decision to intervene in a case like that will be solely dependent on how the individual physician on that day understands and interprets the law. And threatening physicians with financial ruin is a good way to scare them and affect their decision making.
I’m also concerned about all of the young people I take care of, especially the ones who cannot involve their parents in their abortion decision.
In Texas, minors are required to show parental consent or get a judicial bypass, which allows young people to make the decision for themselves. But court orders can take time — which, under this law, young people would likely not have.
The majority of the people who see me for abortion care are parenting already. But I also care for kids. I have seen girls as young as 11. When you are an obstetrician-gynecologist who has cared for 11-year-olds giving birth and 11-year-olds having an abortion, it really changes your perspective on what the dark corners of humanity are and how we must open our hearts to compassion. It’s difficult to really convey to people, as a mother — and I am also a mom — how hard it can be to take care of young kids who have survived sexual violence and just to know how much our society or community has failed them. Politicians are so far away from these kids in their lives. They never have to be there holding their hand.
Those cases, thankfully, are few and far between.
My practice is filled with people who look like me, many who share my lived experiences — immigrants, children of immigrants, undocumented immigrants and people of color. And that is also central to why I went into this work and why I started working in abortion care early on after college.
In Texas, we know how to take care of our folks. We have a very solid community of people working in abortion care and abortion advocacy. And I’m hopeful that after the initial media craze dies down, people will still be directed to the right places in our state that can support them in having an abortion here when possible, or traveling out of state for care. The media attention can be powerful. But don’t forget about us.
We’ve been working. We’re all exhausted. And we all need a minute to rest, recover, and then really reimagine what we need next.
By Margaret Renkl, September 20, 2021
Ms. Renkl is a contributing Opinion writer who covers flora, fauna, politics and culture in the American South.https://www.nytimes.com/2021/09/20/opinion/city-tree-nature.html
NASHVILLE — Two good things happened here recently that I didn’t see coming. First, our Metro Council passed a bill, which Mayor John Cooper signed, that increases protections for trees on city land. Second, the proposal for an outrageously terrible subdivision in Whites Creek, one of the few remaining rural tracts of Davidson Country, was rejected by the Metro Planning Commission.
Positive as the recent environmental news here may be, small-scale victories like these don’t normally rise to the level of national attention. But as a measure of what is possible, they have given me more hope for the future than I’ve had in a long time.
That’s because these particular environmental wins were not the result of lawsuits or transfers of political power. They were the result of widespread and nonpartisan public outcry. And they tell us of what can happen in any city, anywhere, when people start recognizing trees as a kind of civic infrastructure and the natural world as a public good.
The new tree ordinance is the result of more than two years of work by the Nashville Tree Conservation Corps. This effort began in response to the city’s decision, back in 2019, to allow the National Football League to cut down 21 mature cherry trees, in full bloom on Nashville streets, to make room for a lurid stage from which the league planned to conduct its annual draft.
When word got around, a great hue and cry rose up from Nashvillians who were sick and tired of city officials sacrificing municipal treasures on the altar of “progress.” The city backed down, redesigning plans so that the stage affected only 10 trees, and digging up those to replant elsewhere.
The effort to suppress environmentally unsound development in Whites Creek has been in the works even longer than the new tree legislation; every time residents managed to defeat one effort, developers came back with a slightly altered proposal, and residents were forced to mobilize again. These tireless neighbors, aware that dense development increases the risk of severe flooding, demolishes wildlife habitat, and raises temperatures, will apparently keep fighting to preserve this tiny swatch of rural Nashville as often as it takes.
Both cases represent far more than a Not-in-My-Backyard attempt to suppress, or at least relocate, the inevitable. Trees absorb rainwater, prevent soil erosion, filter greenhouse gases from the air, cool the surrounding area, provide both habitat and food for wildlife, and improve the quality of life for human beings. Trees are also at the center of efforts to promote environmental justice within cities by making their allocation of green space more equitable. For now, it’s still possible to measure the relative wealth of an urban neighborhood simply by counting its trees.
From 2008 to 2016, Davidson County lost the equivalent of 918 acres of trees, approximately 13 percent of our tree canopy. Even in this age of profound climate disruption, when a community’s tree canopy is directly related to its climate resilience, nobody knows how many trees have been lost in the last five years. Nobody has counted.
Chances are, you’ve become at least a little bit worried about deforestation. You’re probably aware of the role forests in general play in protecting global biodiversity, and of the role the Amazon basin specifically plays in stabilizing the global climate. The idea that the Amazon is being burned to the ground to turn the rain forest into fields for cattle grazing — cattle destined to become hamburgers — likely strikes you as the kind of moral abomination that might as well be called a mortal sin.
It can be overwhelming to consider the magnitude of the obstacles involved in protecting the world’s forests, especially when those forests are being felled because human beings have need of timber, or grazing land, or homesites, or cornfields. We certainly have the power to stop eating imported beef, but many of the world’s remaining forests exist in places far beyond the reach of political or economic pressure by ordinary Americans.
What is definitely within our reach is the kind of activism the people of Nashville have begun to show in protecting the urban forest: establishing mechanisms to monitor the health of trees, to protect as many as possible, to replace those that cannot be saved, to halt environmentally unsustainable growth. We still have a long, long way to go — there are no regulations here that protect trees on private property, for example — but there are signs now that many in this community understand the risks we face as the climate calamity unfolds. Residents are finally summoning the will to preserve what they can, and if construction-besotted Nashville can do that, any city can do it.
Urban green space plays a less profound role than great forests in limiting temperature rise, it’s true, but it plays an outsize role in protecting communities from the worst effects of a changing climate. “Trees are, quite simply, the most effective strategy, technology, we have to guard against heat in cities,” Brian Stone Jr., a professor of environmental planning at the Georgia Institute of Technology, told the Times reporter Catrin Einhorn.
Next Saturday is National Public Lands Day, a chance for Americans to participate in cleanup, trail maintenance and awareness-raising efforts at our treasured national parks, forests and marine estuaries, among other public lands. The celebration is particularly apt this year, as the pandemic reminds us again and again of how crucial natural areas are as safe places to gather, or as a source of solitude, quiet and calm.
With any luck it will also remind us that such places were not saved from development by accident. It took enormous political will to create them. It will also take enormous political will to preserve and enlarge them.
Here in the United States we have spent decades wringing our hands about deforestation in the developing world, despite having done an incredibly poor job of managing our own old-growth lands. Now is the time to protect what’s left of the forests here at home, including the pocket parks and urban trees that cool our concrete jungles. The future of the planet depends, in part, on every tree we can save.
By Olivia Rosane
EcoWatch, September 16, 2021https://www.ecowatch.com/bottled-water-environmental-cost-2655034939.html
Is it better for your health and the environment to drink water from a plastic bottle or from a tap?
A recent study published in Science of the Total Environment has the answer for this question, at least in the Spanish city of Barcelona. It found that the environmental toll of bottled water was 1,400 to 3,500 times higher than that of tap water, while drinking only tap water would only take an average of two hours off a resident’s life.
“Our findings suggest that the sustainability gain from consuming water from public supply relative to bottled water far exceeds the human health gain from consuming bottled water in Barcelona,” the study authors wrote.
A tale of two assessments
The study is notable for being the “first attempt” to integrate two kinds of assessment for evaluating the health and environmental impacts of drinking water choices, study co-author and postdoctoral research at the Technical University of Catalonia Marianna Garfi told EcoWatch in an email.
The first is a health impact assessment (HIA).
“HIA provides a framework and procedure for estimating the impact of an intervention on a selected environmental health issue for a defined population,” Garfi explained.
In this case, the researchers considered the risk of exposure to trihalomethane (THM), a by-product of the water disinfection process that is present in tap water and has been linked to bladder cancer. They then calculated years of life lost, years lived with disability and disability adjusted life years based on this exposure.
The second assessment is a life cycle assessment (LCA), which identifies the environmental impacts of a product from manufacture to disposal. In this case, the researchers focused on materials and energy used and waste generated.
They then used these assessments to consider the health and environmental impacts of four scenarios:
1. Current drinking water patterns in Barcelona.
2. What would happen if everyone switched to tap water.
3. What would happen if everyone switched to bottled water.
4. What would happen if everyone switched to filtered tap water.
The researchers focused on Barcelona because they were based there and had the data available. It also has THM levels and bottled-water consumption habits that are similar to those of other countries in Europe, which makes it a useful point of comparison.
The results indicate that bottled water is much worse for the planet than tap water. As of 2016, bottled water was the primary source of drinking water for 60 percent of Barcelona’s population. The current state of affairs costs the planet around $50 million in resource extraction and 0.852 species a year. If everyone in Barcelona were to shift to bottled water, these costs would jump to $83.9 million and 1.43 species per year. However, in the scenario in which everyone drank only tap water or filtered tap water, the environmental costs were negligible. When compared to the all tap-water scenario, the all-bottled water scenario had 1,400 times more impact on ecosystems and cost 3,500 times more in terms of resource extraction.
The all-bottled water scenario did have a slight advantage for the health of Barcelona residents only. Currently, about 93.9 years of life across the city are lost due to tap water consumption. In the all-tap water scenario, this would jump to 309 years total, which equates to two hours of life lost per person. It would fall to 35.6 years lost if the city switched exclusively to filtered water and even further to 2.2 years lost if everyone drank bottled water.
However, the health outlook changed when the researchers considered how bottled-water production would affect people living outside Barcelona.
“The production of bottled water to meet the drinking water needs of [the] Barcelona population was estimated to result in 625 DALYs (disability-adjusted life years) per year in the global population,” the study authors wrote. “This burden would be reduced to 0.5 DALYs if only tap water, or filtered tap water were consumed.”
The reason that bottled water is so costly for the environment, Garfi said, came down to the making of the bottles themselves.
“Indeed, raw materials and energy required for bottle manufacturing accounted for the majority of the impact of bottled water use,” she said. It was responsible for as much as 90 percent of the bottles’ impact.
This resource-intensive production process worsens several environmental problems including the climate crisis, ocean acidification and nutrient pollution.
While this particular study found less impacts in terms of plastic waste, Barcelona’s drinking habits are already harming its beaches and coastline. César Sánchez, communications director of recycling organization Retoma told EcoWatch in an email. He said that plastic bottles of all types accounted for 80 percent of the volume and 35 percent of the weight of litter gathered from the city’s beaches. Farther out to sea, there are as many as nine million bits of waste floating per every square kilometer along the coast.
“Beyond that, in my personal experience sailing with fishermen of the area, I have had the chance of corroborat[ing] this situation,” he said. “They say they already live in 2050 because they are getting more waste than fish out of the sea right now.”
Both Sánchez and Garfi argued that the city of Barcelona should take steps to promote tap water over bottled water.
On a city-wide level, Garfi said that Barcelona could promote tap water through public information campaigns, as well as take steps to improve tap water quality and keep pollution out of local water sources. Sánchez further suggested setting up more public fountains and obliging bars and restaurants to offer free tap water to customers.
Individual consumers also have a role to play, Garfi said.
“Be aware of the impacts caused by the use of bottled water and try to find another solution,” she advised, such as using a home filter to improve the taste of tap water.
Finally, to address the waste issue, Sánchez recommended a bottle deposit scheme.“In all countries with deposit and return systems in Europe, more than 90 percent of beverage containers are reused or recycled, so it is the most effective tool to end... the littering problem,” he said.