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.
Register for the webinar at:
Sign the Petition for Compassionate Release:
Please visit Sundiata's website: https://sundiataacolifc.org/
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>.
March For Our Rights
A Community Organized March for Reproductive Justice
Saturday, October 2, 2021, at 11:00 A.M.
SF Civic Center Plaza Area
· Lineup will start at 10:45 A.M. at Grove St. and Hyde St.
· March starts at 11:00 A.M. SHARP
· March down Market St. to Embarcadero Plaza
**We will NOT have an in-person Rally before or after the March and we ask the community's help to disperse at the end of the march**
To RSVP and get more information please RSVP using either Facebook or Eventbrite.
Follow Women’s March San Francisco on our social media to stay posted on all our events and our community collaborations and learn how to support your local group.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org
Please endorse now: http://spiritofmandela.org/endorse/
Dr. A’isha Mohammad
– Coordinating Committee
Created in 2018, In the Spirit of Mandela Coalition is a growing grouping of organizers, academics, clergy, attorneys, and organizations committed to working together against the systemic, historic, and ongoing human rights violations and abuses committed by the USA against Black, Brown, and Indigenous People. The Coalition recognizes and affirms the rich history of diverse and militant freedom fighters Nelson Mandela, Winnie Mandela, Graca Machel Mandela, Rosa Parks, Fannie Lou Hamer, Ella Baker, and many more. It is in their Spirit and affirming their legacy that we work.
To: U.S. Senate, U.S. House of Representatives
Sign Petition at:
A BRILLIANT, BRAVE, BLACK POLITICAL JOURNALIST
PLEASE CALL AND EMAIL ON BEHALF OF KEVIN RASHID JOHNSON!
Jalil Muntaqim in the 2000 documentary, "Jalil Muntaqim: Voice of Liberation" by Freedom Archives on Vimeo
I call upon all those who identify themselves as progressive to recognize the U.S. prison system is an institution generally operated by white supremacists. This has been my experience in both California and New York State prison systems. In fact, on December 4th and 5th, 2016, the New York Times did a two day expose informing NYS prison system is run by white racists. However, among the many prison systems that function as a bastion of white supremacy, Lucasville, Ohio, is one of the worst in the country.
It is under these conditions that Kevin Rashid Johnson, a staunch advocate for the abolition of prisons is presently being threatened with the loss of his life. Being held in 23 hour lockdown, Rashid, is now in the worst condition of his life, locked away in a system of rabid racists that hate him for being a New Afrikan, a brilliant artist, a revolutionary and anti-capitalist imperialist. Since being transferred to Lucasville Rashid has been threatened, his personal property damaged and/or not given to him and must constantly be vigilant from being assaulted or murdered either by prison guards or their flunkies who mindlessly function as tools of white supremacy.
I am petitioning to the entire Progressive community to unite, to band together and say to the world… we will not permit Lucasville to murder Kevin Rashid Johnson. I am asking every single one of you to call the Governor of Ohio and demand Rashid be immediately transferred out of the notorious Lucasville prison. I ask that all of you contact the major Ohio newspapers and news outlets and urge them to find out why Kevin Rashid Johnson’s life is being threatened. We, collectively, need to shine a spotlight on Kevin Rashid Johnson, and let all know Rashid belongs to the people, that progressive people around the world support him and refuse to sit idle and let Rashid be murdered in Lucasville, Ohio!!!
To contact Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine: Call the governor’s office at 614-466-3555.
You will be prompted to go to his website to write out your message at:
Do that, but ALSO LEAVE A PHONE MESSAGE:
Tell the governor to transfer Kevin Johnson, A787991, out of Lucasville Prison immediately before he is murdered!
Remember: We Are Our Own Liberators
Jalil A. Muntaqim
Jalil A. Muntaqim, legendary analyst, theorist and stategist, author of We Are Our Own Liberators, veteran of the Black Panther Party and the Black Liberation Army, co-founder of the Jericho Movement, born in Oakland, raised in San Francisco, survived 49 years in prison, from 1971 to Oct. 7, 2020. Learn about his current campaign at SpiritofMandela.organd join in preparations for the International Tribunal on Oct. 22-25, when “We Charge Genocide” again.
My letter on behalf of Rashid:
“I am very concerned about the health and safety of Mr. Johnson currently at Lucasville prison. Not only is he being held in 23-hour-lockdown, his belongings withheld from him, but he is being threatened with murder by guards. This is intolerable! He must be transferred immediately from that notoriously racist prison. Just in the last year he has been transferred from Virginia, to Oregon, Texas, Indiana and now, Ohio.
“There are many who are aware of what is happening to Mr. Johnson and who support his writings on the injustices prison inmates experience in this racist prison system.
𝘼𝙡𝙡 𝙋2𝙋 𝙤𝙣 𝙩𝙝𝙞𝙨 𝙨𝙚𝙘𝙤𝙣𝙙 𝙙𝙖𝙮 𝙤𝙛 𝘽𝙡𝙖𝙘𝙠 𝘼𝙪𝙜𝙪𝙨𝙩. 𝙊𝙪𝙧 𝙘𝙤𝙢𝙧𝙖𝙙𝙚 𝙍𝙖𝙨𝙝𝙞𝙙 𝙨𝙩𝙞𝙡𝙡 𝙣𝙚𝙚𝙙𝙨 𝙤𝙪𝙧 𝙖𝙨𝙨𝙞𝙨𝙩𝙖𝙣𝙘𝙚. 𝙄𝙩 𝙞𝙨𝙞𝙢𝙥𝙚𝙧𝙖𝙩𝙞𝙫𝙚 𝙩𝙝𝙖𝙩 𝙘𝙖𝙡𝙡𝙨 𝙖𝙣𝙙 𝙚𝙢𝙖𝙞𝙡𝙨 𝙨𝙩𝙞𝙡𝙡 𝙗𝙚 𝙢𝙖𝙙𝙚 𝙤𝙣 𝙝𝙞𝙨 𝙗𝙚𝙝𝙖𝙡𝙛 𝙩𝙤 𝙩𝙝𝙚 𝙘𝙤𝙣𝙩𝙖𝙘𝙩𝙨 𝙡𝙞𝙨𝙩𝙚𝙙 𝙗𝙚𝙡𝙤𝙬. 𝙎𝙤𝙢𝙚𝙤𝙣𝙚𝙘𝙤𝙣𝙩𝙖𝙘𝙩𝙚𝙙 𝙢𝙚 𝙚𝙖𝙧𝙡𝙞𝙚𝙧 𝙩𝙤 𝙩𝙚𝙡𝙡 𝙢𝙚 𝙩𝙝𝙖𝙩 𝙍𝙖𝙨𝙝𝙞𝙙'𝙨 𝙘𝙚𝙡𝙡 𝙝𝙖𝙨 𝙗𝙚𝙚𝙣 𝙨𝙚𝙖𝙧𝙘𝙝𝙚𝙙 𝙩𝙬𝙞𝙘𝙚 𝙩𝙝𝙞𝙨 𝙢𝙤𝙧𝙣𝙞𝙣𝙜 𝙖𝙨 𝙩𝙝𝙚𝙮𝙗𝙚𝙡𝙞𝙚𝙫𝙚 𝙩𝙝𝙖𝙩 𝙝𝙚 𝙞𝙨 𝙨𝙩𝙞𝙡𝙡 𝙘𝙤𝙢𝙢𝙪𝙣𝙞𝙘𝙖𝙩𝙞𝙣𝙜 𝙬𝙞𝙩𝙝 𝙩𝙝𝙚 𝙤𝙪𝙩𝙨𝙞𝙙𝙚. 𝙏𝙝𝙚 𝙤𝙩𝙝𝙚𝙧 𝙥𝙧𝙞𝙨𝙤𝙣𝙚𝙧𝙨 𝙝𝙖𝙫𝙚 𝙗𝙚𝙚𝙣 𝙞𝙣𝙨𝙩𝙧𝙪𝙘𝙩𝙚𝙙 𝙣𝙤𝙩 𝙩𝙤 𝙩𝙖𝙡𝙠 𝙩𝙤 𝙝𝙞𝙢 𝙤𝙧 𝙖𝙨𝙨𝙞𝙨𝙩 𝙝𝙞𝙢 𝙞𝙣 𝙖𝙣𝙮 𝙬𝙖𝙮. 𝙏𝙝𝙚 𝙥𝙞𝙜𝙨 𝙖𝙧𝙚 𝙖𝙩𝙩𝙚𝙢𝙥𝙩𝙞𝙣𝙜 𝙩𝙤 𝙨𝙤𝙬 𝙙𝙞𝙫𝙞𝙨𝙞𝙤𝙣 𝙥𝙚𝙧 𝙪𝙨𝙪𝙖𝙡. - Shupavu Wa Kirima
𝙒𝙚 𝙖𝙧𝙚 𝙨𝙩𝙞𝙡𝙡 𝙙𝙚𝙢𝙖𝙣𝙙𝙞𝙣𝙜 𝙩𝙝𝙚 𝙛𝙤𝙡𝙡𝙤𝙬𝙞𝙣𝙜:
1. 𝘼𝙣 𝙚𝙣𝙙 𝙩𝙤 𝙩𝙝𝙚 𝙗𝙤𝙜𝙪𝙨 30 𝙙𝙖𝙮 𝙧𝙚𝙨𝙩𝙧𝙞𝙘𝙩𝙞𝙤𝙣 𝙛𝙧𝙤𝙢 𝙥𝙝𝙤𝙣𝙚 𝙖𝙣𝙙 𝙚𝙢𝙖𝙞𝙡.
2. 𝘼𝙣 𝙚𝙣𝙙 𝙩𝙤 𝙩𝙝𝙚 𝙗𝙤𝙜𝙪𝙨 30 𝙙𝙖𝙮 𝙧𝙚𝙨𝙩𝙧𝙞𝙘𝙩𝙞𝙤𝙣 𝙛𝙧𝙤𝙢 𝙘𝙤𝙢𝙢𝙞𝙨𝙨𝙖𝙧𝙮 𝙩𝙝𝙖𝙩 𝙥𝙧𝙚𝙫𝙚𝙣𝙩𝙨 𝙍𝙖𝙨𝙝𝙞𝙙 𝙛𝙧𝙤𝙢 𝙤𝙧𝙙𝙚𝙧𝙞𝙣𝙜𝙨𝙩𝙖𝙩𝙞𝙤𝙣𝙚𝙧𝙮 𝙬𝙞𝙩𝙝 𝙬𝙝𝙞𝙘𝙝 𝙩𝙤 𝙬𝙧𝙞𝙩𝙚.
3. 𝙏𝙝𝙚 𝙞𝙢𝙢𝙚𝙙𝙞𝙖𝙩𝙚 𝙧𝙚𝙩𝙪𝙧𝙣 𝙤𝙛 𝘼𝙇𝙇 𝙤𝙛 𝙝𝙞𝙨 𝙥𝙧𝙤𝙥𝙚𝙧𝙩𝙮 𝙞𝙣𝙘𝙡𝙪𝙙𝙞𝙣𝙜 𝙩𝙝𝙚 $400 𝙩𝙝𝙖𝙩 𝙬𝙖𝙨 𝙤𝙣 𝙝𝙞𝙨 𝙩𝙧𝙪𝙨𝙩 𝙖𝙘𝙘𝙤𝙪𝙣𝙩𝙩𝙝𝙚𝙧𝙚 𝙖𝙩 𝙒𝙑𝘾𝙁 𝙖𝙣𝙙 𝙝𝙞𝙨 𝙡𝙚𝙜𝙖𝙡 𝙥𝙧𝙤𝙥𝙚𝙧𝙩𝙮 𝙬𝙝𝙞𝙘𝙝 𝙬𝙞𝙡𝙡 𝙚𝙣𝙖𝙗𝙡𝙚 𝙝𝙞𝙢 𝙩𝙤 𝙘𝙤𝙣𝙩𝙞𝙣𝙪𝙚 𝙬𝙞𝙩𝙝 𝙝𝙞𝙨 𝙘𝙖𝙨𝙚 𝙖𝙜𝙖𝙞𝙣𝙨𝙩 𝙩𝙝𝙚 𝙄𝙉𝘿𝙚𝙥𝙖𝙧𝙩𝙢𝙚𝙣𝙩 𝙤𝙛 𝘾𝙤𝙧𝙧𝙚𝙘𝙩𝙞𝙤𝙣𝙨. 𝙄𝙛 𝙩𝙝𝙚𝙮 𝙩𝙚𝙡𝙡 𝙮𝙤𝙪 𝙩𝙝𝙖𝙩 𝙝𝙞𝙨 𝙥𝙧𝙤𝙥𝙚𝙧𝙩𝙮 𝙝𝙖𝙨 𝙖𝙡𝙧𝙚𝙖𝙙𝙮 𝙗𝙚𝙚𝙣 𝙨𝙚𝙣𝙩 𝙩𝙝𝙚𝙣 𝙬𝙚 𝙣𝙚𝙚𝙙 𝙩𝙤𝙠𝙣𝙤𝙬 𝙤𝙣 𝙬𝙝𝙖𝙩 𝙙𝙖𝙩𝙚 𝙞𝙩 𝙬𝙖𝙨 𝙨𝙝𝙞𝙥𝙥𝙚𝙙 𝙖𝙣𝙙 𝙬𝙝𝙖𝙩 𝙛𝙖𝙘𝙞𝙡𝙞𝙩𝙮 𝙧𝙚𝙘𝙚𝙞𝙫𝙚𝙙 𝙞𝙩.
𝙏𝙝𝙖𝙣𝙠 𝙮𝙤𝙪 𝙖𝙡𝙡 𝙨𝙤 𝙢𝙪𝙘𝙝 𝙛𝙤𝙧 𝙮𝙤𝙪𝙧 𝙨𝙤𝙡𝙞𝙙𝙖𝙧𝙞𝙩𝙮 𝙖𝙣𝙙 𝙨𝙪𝙥𝙥𝙤𝙧𝙩. 𝙄 𝙖𝙥𝙥𝙧𝙚𝙘𝙞𝙖𝙩𝙚 𝙖𝙡𝙡 𝙤𝙛 𝙮𝙤𝙪. 𝙒𝙚 𝙖𝙧𝙚 𝙩𝙝𝙚 𝙊𝙉𝙇𝙔𝙡𝙞𝙣𝙚 𝙤𝙛 𝙙𝙚𝙛𝙚𝙣𝙨𝙚 𝙛𝙤𝙧 𝙤𝙪𝙧 𝙞𝙢𝙥𝙧𝙞𝙨𝙤𝙣𝙚𝙙 𝙘𝙤𝙢𝙧𝙖𝙙𝙚𝙨.
* 𝘼𝙣𝙣𝙚𝙩𝙩𝙚 𝘾𝙝𝙖𝙢𝙗𝙚𝙧𝙨-𝙎𝙢𝙞𝙩𝙝, 𝘿𝙞𝙧𝙚𝙘𝙩𝙤𝙧 𝙤𝙛 𝙊𝙝𝙞𝙤 𝘿𝙚𝙥𝙖𝙧𝙩 𝙤𝙛 𝙍𝙚𝙝𝙖𝙗𝙞𝙡𝙞𝙩𝙖𝙩𝙞𝙤𝙣 𝙖𝙣𝙙 𝘾𝙤𝙧𝙧𝙚𝙘𝙩𝙞𝙤𝙣𝙨 𝙥𝙡𝙚𝙖𝙨𝙚𝙘𝙤𝙣𝙩𝙖𝙘𝙩: 𝙈𝙚𝙡𝙞𝙨𝙨𝙖 𝘼𝙙𝙠𝙞𝙣𝙨 (𝙀𝙭𝙚𝙘𝙪𝙩𝙞𝙫𝙚 𝘼𝙨𝙨𝙞𝙨𝙩𝙖𝙣𝙩) 𝙫𝙞𝙖 𝙚𝙢𝙖𝙞𝙡: 𝙢𝙚𝙡𝙞𝙨𝙨𝙖.𝙖𝙙𝙠𝙞𝙣𝙨@𝙤𝙙𝙧𝙘.𝙨𝙩𝙖𝙩𝙚.𝙤𝙝.𝙪𝙨 𝙤 614-752-1153.
* 𝙍𝙤𝙣𝙖𝙡𝙙 𝙀𝙧𝙙𝙤𝙨, 𝙎𝙤𝙪𝙩𝙝𝙚𝙧𝙣 𝙊𝙝𝙞𝙤 𝘾𝙤𝙧𝙧𝙚𝙘𝙩𝙞𝙤𝙣𝙖𝙡 𝙁𝙖𝙘𝙞𝙡𝙞𝙩𝙮, 𝙒𝙖𝙧𝙙𝙚𝙣 (𝙇𝙪𝙘𝙖𝙨𝙫𝙞𝙡𝙡𝙚) (740)259-5544 𝙙𝙧𝙘.𝙨𝙤𝙘𝙛@𝙤𝙙𝙧𝙘.𝙨𝙩𝙖𝙩𝙚.𝙤𝙝𝙞𝙤.𝙪𝙨
*𝙅𝙤𝙨𝙚𝙥𝙝 𝙒𝙖𝙡𝙩𝙚𝙧𝙨, 𝘿𝙚𝙥. 𝘿𝙞𝙧𝙚𝙘𝙩𝙤𝙧 𝙑𝙞𝙧𝙜𝙞𝙣𝙞𝙖 𝘿𝙚𝙥𝙖𝙧𝙩𝙢𝙚𝙣𝙩 𝙊𝙛 𝘾𝙤𝙧𝙧𝙚𝙘𝙩𝙞𝙤𝙣𝙨𝙟𝙤𝙨𝙚𝙥𝙝.𝙬𝙖𝙡𝙩𝙚𝙧𝙨@𝙫𝙖𝙙𝙤𝙘.𝙫𝙞𝙧𝙜𝙞𝙣𝙞𝙖.𝙜𝙤𝙫 (𝙋𝙧𝙤𝙭𝙮 𝙛𝙤𝙧 𝙃𝙖𝙧𝙤𝙡𝙙 𝙒. 𝘾𝙡𝙖𝙧𝙠𝙚, 𝘿𝙞𝙧𝙚𝙘𝙩𝙤𝙧 𝙤𝙛 𝙩𝙝𝙚 𝘿𝙚𝙥𝙖𝙧𝙩𝙢𝙚𝙣𝙩 𝙤𝙛𝘾𝙤𝙧𝙧𝙚𝙘𝙩𝙞𝙤𝙣𝙨) (804)887-7982
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Freedom for Major Tillery! End his Life Imprisonment!
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Contact: Governor's Press Office
Friday, May 28, 2021
Governor Newsom Announces Clemency Actions, Signs Executive Order for Independent Investigation of Kevin Cooper Case
SACRAMENTO – Governor Gavin Newsom today announced that he has granted 14 pardons, 13 commutations and 8 medical reprieves. In addition, the Governor signed an executive order to launch an independent investigation of death row inmate Kevin Cooper’s case as part of the evaluation of Cooper’s application for clemency.
The investigation will review trial and appellate records in the case, the facts underlying the conviction and all available evidence, including the results of the recently conducted DNA tests previously ordered by the Governor to examine additional evidence in the case using the latest, most scientifically reliable forensic testing.
The text of the Governor’s executive order can be found here:
The California Constitution gives the Governor the authority to grant executive clemency in the form of a pardon, commutation or reprieve. These clemency grants recognize the applicants’ subsequent efforts in self-development or the existence of a medical exigency. They do not forgive or minimize the harm caused.
The Governor regards clemency as an important part of the criminal justice system that can incentivize accountability and rehabilitation, increase public safety by removing counterproductive barriers to successful reentry, correct unjust results in the legal system and address the health needs of incarcerated people with high medical risks.
A pardon may remove counterproductive barriers to employment and public service, restore civic rights and responsibilities and prevent unjust collateral consequences of conviction, such as deportation and permanent family separation. A pardon does not expunge or erase a conviction.
A commutation modifies a sentence, making an incarcerated person eligible for an earlier release or allowing them to go before the Board of Parole Hearings for a hearing at which Parole Commissioners determine whether the individual is suitable for release.
A reprieve allows individuals classified by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation as high medical risk to serve their sentences in appropriate alternative placements in the community consistent with public health and public safety.
The Governor weighs numerous factors in his review of clemency applications, including an applicant’s self-development and conduct since the offense, whether the grant is consistent with public safety and in the interest of justice, and the impact of a grant on the community, including crime victims and survivors.
While in office, Governor Newsom has granted a total of 86 pardons, 92 commutations and 28 reprieves.
The Governor’s Office encourages victims, survivors, and witnesses to register with CDCR’s Office of Victims and Survivors Rights and Services to receive information about an incarcerated person’s status. For general Information about victim services, to learn about victim-offender dialogues, or to register or update a registration confidentially, please visit:
www.cdcr.ca.gov/Victim_Services/ or call 1-877-256-6877 (toll free).
Copies of the gubernatorial clemency certificates announced today can be found here:
Additional information on executive clemency can be found here:
Questions and comments may be sent to: 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.
If you are contacted by federal law enforcement you should exercise all of your rights. It is always advisable to speak to an attorney before responding to federal authorities.
State and Local Hotlines
If you have been contacted by the FBI or other federal law enforcement, in one of the following areas, you may be able to get help or information from one of these local NLG hotlines for:
- Portland, Oregon: (833) 680-1312
- San Francisco, California: (415) 285-1041 or firstname.lastname@example.org
- Seattle, Washington: (206) 658-7963
If you are located in an area with no hotline, you can call the following number:
Know Your Rights Materials
The NLG maintains a library of basic Know-Your-Rights guides.
- Know Your Rights During Covid-19
- You Have The Right To Remain Silent: A Know Your Rights Guide for Encounters with Law Enforcement
- Operation Backfire: For Environmental and Animal Rights Activists
WEBINAR: Federal Repression of Activists & Their Lawyers: Legal & Ethical Strategies to Defend Our Movements: presented by NLG-NYC and NLG National Office
We also recommend the following resources:
- Grand Juries: Slideshow
Movement for Black Lives Legal Resources
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.
Isaabdul Karim was being held on a parole violation when he died on Sunday, becoming the 11th person incarcerated at the jail to die this year.
By Jan Ransom, Sept. 21, 2021
Phara Souffrant Forrest, an assemblywoman from Queens, spoke at a news conference outside Rikers Island last week. The jail has plunged into chaos in recent months. Credit...Juan Arredondo for The New York Times
When Gov. Kathy Hochul announced on Friday that nearly 200 people being held at the Rikers Island jail complex on minor parole violations would be immediately released, Isaabdul Karim was not on the list.
Ms. Hochul’s order, designed to ease a roiling crisis inside the notorious jail, ordered the release of people whose violations, like Mr. Karim’s, were considered technical. But only detainees who had been locked up for 30 days as of Ms. Hochul’s order qualified; Mr. Karim had then been incarcerated for 29.
On Sunday, his 31st day at Rikers, Mr. Karim died minutes after suffering a medical emergency, and after what his lawyers and longtime partner said was weeks without medical and mental health care. He was the 11th person to die while in the custody of New York City’s jail system this year.
The death of Mr. Karim, a 42-year-old father of two, underscored the conjoined crises afflicting Rikers Island — rampant staff absenteeism and an increase in coronavirus cases — which officials, detainees, lawyers and staff have said has led to inhumane conditions at the jail complex and severe deficiencies in medical and mental health care for those being held there.
Mr. Karim, who used a wheelchair and had hypertension, diabetes and a history of epilepsy and psychiatric issues, contracted the virus while in jail, according to his lawyers, though the official cause of death has not been determined. It is unclear whether release would have kept Mr. Karim alive.
“Providing for the safety of incarcerated people is our core mission, and I am heartbroken that we have seen yet another death of a human being entrusted to our care,” Vincent Schiraldi, the commissioner of the Department of Correction, said in a statement. He noted that the cause of death appeared to be natural, but added, “that doesn’t change the fact that we have serious issues in our jails.”
Ms. Hochul signed a new law on Friday, known as the Less Is More Act, in an effort to reduce jail populations by ending the practice of incarcerating people who commit minor parole violations. In keeping with the standards set by the law, she ordered the release of 191 people from Rikers, 165 of whom had been released by Monday afternoon.
Under the new law, which goes into effect fully in September of next year, incarceration would be eliminated for most people accused of technical parole violations — like breaking curfew or missing an appointment. But certain minor violations could still result in up to 30 days in jail.
The list of detainees on Rikers who had met the 30-day criteria was created on Sept. 16 — a day before the order and two days before Mr. Karim would have been eligible.
“He should have been released,” said Lorraine McEvilley, director of the Parole Revocation Defense Unit at the Legal Aid Society. “It’s an illustration of the life-or-death situation people are in when they are locked up on parole violations.”
But Thomas Mailey, a spokesman for the Department of Correction and Community Supervision, said that Mr. Karim’s case would have been reviewed this week, and that he had missed the cutoff for release by days, not hours. Future releases, he said, will continue on a rolling basis.
Mr. Karim, who was released from prison in June 2018 after he had been convicted of selling cocaine to an undercover officer, was ordered to complete two years of supervised release, according to his lawyers and state records.
But by January 2020, Mr. Karim had stopped meeting with his parole officer, and a warrant was issued for his arrest, state officials and his lawyers said.
Then, in August, Mr. Karim was apprehended by the Department of Correction and Community Supervision’s Office of Special Investigations, which took him to Jacobi Medical Center in the Bronx for medical treatment. His longtime partner, Felicia Huff Bullock, said in a phone interview on Monday that Mr. Karim had been stabbed in an altercation.
He was hospitalized overnight. On Aug. 18, he was sent to Rikers.
Mr. Karim was held in an intake cell for 10 days, his lawyers and Ms. Huff Bullock said. He had scant access to food and was denied medication, they said. Jail and correctional health officials did not immediately respond to questions about the allegations.
“‘They’re not feeding us,’” Ms. Huff Bullock recalled him saying during a phone call. “‘I don’t know what’s going on. They are treating us like animals; worse than animals.”
At his preliminary hearing on the parole violation on Aug. 31, Ms. McEvilley said his lawyers asked for an early release, citing his deteriorating health. The hearing was cut short, she said, after Mr. Karim suffered an asthma attack. He was scheduled to return for an arraignment on Sept. 27.
But advocates for incarcerated people said Mr. Karim should never have been detained.
“He should have been in the community with his family, friends and network, not in a jail plagued by an ongoing humanitarian crisis,” said Tina Luongo, the attorney in charge of the Legal Aid Society’s criminal defense practice. “Technical violations — including marijuana use and failing to report, the noncriminal charges that led to Mr. Karim’s remand — should not amount to a death sentence.”
In the days before his death, Mr. Karim had slipped and fallen in a shower and later complained of chest pain, Ms. Huff Bullock said other detainees told her. She said doctors had planned to perform an X-ray, but never did. By Sunday, Mr. Karim had complained that his chest pain had worsened, Ms. Huff Bullock said. He died in a medical clinic in the North Infirmary Command at 7:25 p.m.
“They were really playing Russian roulette with him,” Ms. Huff Bullock said through tears. “They allowed him to die.”
She blamed Mayor Bill de Blasio and jail officials for not doing more to save Mr. Karim and castigated correction officers, some of whom have been accused of calling in sick to avoid having to work. Nearly a third of the jail system’s officers have been out sick or otherwise unable to work with detainees.
“These people are getting paid for nothing,” Ms. Huff Bullock said. “Somebody’s got to stand up, and nobody is standing up.”
The city responded to the absenteeism on Monday by filing a lawsuit against the union representing its jail officers, saying that the staff absences that have led to a crisis on Rikers amounted to an illegal strike that had endangered staff and detainees alike.
And on Monday evening, the lawyers behind a civil rights lawsuit that detailed widespread abuses at Rikers — and led to a 2015 agreement appointing a federal monitor to oversee the jail — filed an emergency motion, citing the “exceptional danger” facing detainees because of the collapse in jail functions. The lawyers asked for an emergency court hearing and possibly the release of detainees.
Dhuha Abdul-Karim, 41, of Long Island, Mr. Karim’s half sister, said she was devastated when she learned of her brother’s death Monday morning. The two hadn’t spoken in close to six years because of Mr. Karim’s continued involvement in “criminal activity,” Ms. Karim said.
Ms. Karim said she tried to get in touch with him after seeing a news story that said he attempted suicide and swallowed a battery while he was being held at Rikers in 2016, but she was unable to reach him.
“When he moved out of my house, I don’t know what happened to him,” she said.
The footage offered a glimpse of the chaos that has been unfolding in Texas and called into question President Biden’s decision to swiftly deport thousands.
By Eileen Sullivan and Zolan Kanno-Youngs, Sept. 21, 2021
WASHINGTON — Images of Border Patrol agents on horses, pushing back Haitian migrants crossing the Rio Grande to try to reach U.S. soil, have prompted outrage among Democrats and called into question President Biden’s decision to swiftly deport thousands who had been arriving en masse at a small Texas border town.
Vice President Kamala Harris on Tuesday called the treatment “horrible” and said she planned to discuss the issue with Alejandro N. Mayorkas, the secretary of the Homeland Security Department, which has started an investigation.
“Human beings should never be treated that way,” Ms. Harris said. “And I’m deeply troubled about it.”
Asked if Mr. Biden had seen the images, the White House press secretary, Jen Psaki, said: “He believes that the footage and photos are horrific. They don’t represent who we are as a country. And he was pleased to see the announcement of the investigation.”
The photographs and video footage of the agents’ interactions with the migrants, which were widely circulated online, offered a glimpse of the chaos that had been unfolding since last week, when large groups of Haitians started crossing the Rio Grande and illegally entering the United States in Del Rio, Texas. It is the latest example of the Biden administration, in its attempts to assert control over soaring numbers of border crossings, belying the president’s pledge to restore an asylum program for vulnerable families fleeing persecution and poverty.
The videos appear to show mounted Border Patrol agents corralling migrants and forcing them back to Mexico. Some of the agents were gripping and waving what appeared to be reins, prompting accusations that they had been using whips against them. One video captured an agent shouting an expletive at a migrant.
The Biden administration has flown more than 1,000 people to Haiti since Sunday and plans to run seven flights a day starting Wednesday, with room for 135 migrants on each plane, according to an official familiar with the plan who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal strategies. But some top Democrats said that strategy was wrong.
“I urge President Biden and Secretary Mayorkas to immediately put a stop to these expulsions,” Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the majority leader, said on Tuesday. “We cannot continue these hateful and xenophobic Trump policies that disregard our refugee laws.”
The public health rule that the Trump administration put in place at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic has been used more than 700,000 times under the Biden administration to quickly expel migrants, many of whom are seeking asylum.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi said that Congress was closely monitoring what she called a “heartbreaking” situation.
“All migrants seeking asylum must be treated in accordance with the law and with basic decency,” she said in a statement. “Any acts of aggression or violence cannot be tolerated and must be investigated.”
Leaders of civil rights organizations, including the N.A.A.C.P., sent a letter to Mr. Biden on Tuesday condemning the treatment of the Haitians.
“White (and white-presenting) men on horseback with lariats are seen chasing, yelling and cursing at vulnerable Black asylum seekers who have for weeks and months been fleeing toward what they thought was safety,” they wrote. “The actions of these Border Patrol officers are disgraceful and show an indifference to the humanity of Black migrants.”
The Border Patrol, founded in 1924, when agents were recruited from the Texas Rangers and local sheriffs’ offices, is a sprawling arm of Customs and Border Protection. The agency found itself in the spotlight when President Donald J. Trump used harsh measures to restrict the number of immigrants entering the United States.
It was also at the center of some of Mr. Trump’s more restrictive immigration policies, including the “zero-tolerance” policy that separated thousands of children from their parents, and the practice of rapidly expelling migrants across the border during the pandemic, which Mr. Biden has kept in place.
To make good on his campaign promise of improving the agency’s accountability, Mr. Biden nominated Chris Magnus, the Tucson police chief, who is known as a reformist, as his Customs and Border Protection commissioner.
But the Democratic-controlled Senate has yet to schedule a date for his confirmation hearing, nine months into Mr. Biden’s term.
During a news conference in Del Rio on Monday, Chief Raul L. Ortiz of the Border Patrol said the mounted unit was deployed to assist with security and see if any migrants were in distress, as well as to gather intelligence about smuggling organizations.
“Operating in riverine environment, on horseback, is a difficult situation,” he said, adding that agents used reins to try to control horses so that they did not inadvertently injure migrants. He said the actions of one agent on horseback, who appeared to be spinning his reins like a lasso as he loomed over a group in the water, were most likely related to that challenge.
“But we will certainly look into the matter,” Chief Ortiz added, “to make sure that we do not have any activity that could be construed as a response to a law enforcement effort that is unacceptable.”
The Border Patrol’s mounted unit has previously been deployed to areas where it can be hard for agents to see migrants trying to evade them, such as the vast brush of carrizo cane along the Rio Grande, said Gil Kerlikowske, a former commissioner of Customs and Border Protection. Agents have said that migrants can use the wooded areas to easily slip past them.
But the agents on horseback on Monday appeared to be along an open stretch of the Rio Grande, where families with children were also gathered.
“They’re really good to observe in brush,” Mr. Kerlikowske said, referring to the horses, “but out in the open, especially with a lot of people, is probably not the best place for them to be.”
Of the Border Patrol, he added, “I think they’re really trying to send a strong deterrence message.”
Despite initially suggesting that his administration would end the public health rule and revert to allowing migrants to go through the usual asylum process, Mr. Biden has turned to deterrence measures, insisting that the border is not open and using repatriation flights to convey that now is not the time for migrants to try to come to the United States. Border crossings in recent months have reached their highest level in decades.
Even so, there has been inconsistency at various points along the border about who will be prevented from entering the United States under the public health rule. Some say that has led to confusion among migrants “about what the situation is on the border and how they can best seek protection,” said Robyn Barnard, the senior advocacy counsel for refugee protection at Human Rights First.
Immigration advocates have also suggested that the administration is ignoring its own assessment of living conditions in Haiti, which it deemed so extreme that it extended authorization in late July for any Haitian who was in the country to live temporarily in the United States.
“It is reprehensible that Haitian families seeking safety amidst political violence and a devastating earthquake at home are met with anti-Black violence and no real opportunity to seek protection,” said Katharina Obser, a director at the Women’s Refugee Commission.
Many of the migrants who recently arrived in Del Rio have not lived in Haiti for years; instead they have been residing in South America after fleeing the catastrophic earthquake in Haiti in 2010. This has made the swift deportations even harder for people who are repatriated to a country they know little about anymore.
In reality, not all the migrants arriving at the border in Del Rio are being deported. Hundreds of Haitian families have said they fear returning home, and they have been allowed into the United States to seek asylum.
During a Senate hearing on Monday, Republicans pressed Mr. Mayorkas about the latest border crisis.
“This is a humanitarian crisis in Del Rio — you can spin it whichever way that you want. But you’re quite right, we should not minimize the humanitarian conditions for which, frankly, you’re responsible,” Senator Josh Hawley, Republican of Missouri, said after Mr. Mayorkas described the conditions he saw in Del Rio a day earlier as a “human tragedy.”
“You and your administration are responsible,” Mr. Hawley added. “Tens of thousands of people living in conditions that are startling, startling, brought here because of your policies.”
His comments came after he grilled Mr. Mayorkas about the Biden administration’s plan to address the increase in illegal immigration.
In Del Rio on Tuesday, Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas also blamed the administration for the crisis.
“What the world is witnessing now is the open-border policies that are being utilized by the Biden administration. It attracts people from across the entire globe,” Mr. Abbott said. “It’s total chaos, and the Biden administration, they need to up their game big time.”
J. David Goodman contributed reporting from Austin, Texas, and Annie Karni from Washington.
By Melissa Ayala, Sept. 21, 2021
Ms. Ayala is a lawyer specializing in constitutional law and feminist legal theory. She is the litigation coordinator of GIRE, a feminist organization dedicated to abortion rights and reproductive freedom based in Mexico City.
Women in Mexico City chanting in support of legal and safe abortion, February 2020. Credit...Edgard Garrido/Reuters
Growing up in the 1990s in a Catholic household outside of Mexico’s capital, Mexico City, I learned as a young girl that abortion was out of the question. When I reached my adolescent years, the only representation I had ever seen of abortion in pop culture was in the film “The Crime of Padre Amaro.” In the movie, the priest impregnates a young woman, then takes her to an unsanitary and illegal clinic. The abortion goes wrong; she dies. The message landed: I was sure that having an abortion would lead to death.
This month Mexico got a new message. On Sept. 7 the justices of the Mexican Supreme Court unanimously ruled that it is unconstitutional to criminalize abortion. The court then stated, unequivocally, that our Constitution guarantees the right to choose. No Mexican woman or person with the ability to become pregnant should be prosecuted for exercising her rights.
Even as feminists across the country celebrate this decision, we also must recognize where credit is due. For more than 29 years, feminists have organized themselves in nonprofit groups such as GIRE (where I work), Fondo María and Balance. Women have taken to the streets again and again across Latin America demanding that our governments guarantee our rights.
Grass-roots movements have transformed the narrative and have made more and more Mexicans see that we need sexual education to discover our bodies, contraceptives to enjoy our sexuality and legal abortion to own our own decisions. (The motto in Spanish is “Educación sexual para descubrir, anticonceptivos para disfrutar, aborto legal para decidir.”) The feminist movement has insisted for years that abortion involves and affects all women, no matter their social status.
When I left my home state, Puebla, in 2010 to attend law school in Mexico City, I learned that first-trimester abortions were made legal in the capital of our country in 2007. From my feminist law professors, my fellow students and I learned, often for the first time, about the right to choose, a right our Constitution grants.
After Mexico City opened the door to legalization, states slowly followed. First came Oaxaca in 2019, and this year Hidalgo and Veracruz joined what feminists call the Marea Verde, or the Green Tide. But Mexico is a federation, made up of states. That means your rights depend on where you are standing, a legal system very similar to that of the United States.
This month the Mexican Supreme Court offered hope to all women and girls in our country. The justices said what has long been intuitive to feminist activists: that someone who is not yet born does not have the same protection as someone who already is alive.
The court stated that women and nonbinary people must not be prosecuted criminally for having an abortion. However, the decision does not translate into an immediate decriminalization of abortion in all states, since abortion is still a crime on the books in 28 local criminal codes. The decision means that no judge may send to prison or sanction women or nonbinary persons who exercise their right to choose to terminate a pregnancy. In other words, technically, a woman could still be taken before a judge and exposed before the community, though she would not see jail time.
We are early yet in the story of our rights in Mexico. Not being sent to jail does not mean abortion is accessible for everyone. Women living outside of Mexico City, Oaxaca, Veracruz or Hidalgo — the areas where abortion rights have progressed the farthest — still have to travel to have an abortion. That restriction disproportionately affects those who are economically vulnerable. And in Mexico, that is an enormous restriction. In my country, we say poverty has a female face; out of 65.5 million women, 50 million are in poverty or at risk of economic or social hardship.
Feminist activists should continue to demand that their local representatives work to reform the criminal codes to eliminate the articles that consider voluntary abortion a crime. This is not only legally relevant: It is imperative in order to start eradicating the social stigma that still surrounds those who decide to have an abortion.
In Mexico, abortion has long been cast in the context of shame — just as I first learned from Padre Amaro. This is finally starting to change: Protests by those who oppose abortion were held outside the doors of the Supreme Court. But the prayer and protest did not seem to have any effect on the arguments of the justices.
Now it is essential that the Mexican media and the pop culture portray abortion as what it is: a right and a choice. I write this thinking of all the girls who, like me, grew up equating abortion with death or jail. Thanks to the Mexican justices, this idea may start to disappear. We still have to continue fighting to guarantee that abortion is a safe, legal, accessible and free medical procedure.
In Chile, the feminist performance art collective Las Tesis created a feminist anthem denouncing violence against women that has become a theme song in the fight to legalize abortion. The chant quickly spread through Latin America. In the song, “Un violador en tu camino” (“A Rapist in Your Path”), Las Tesis berated those who judge us for being born women. The group first performed this anthem in Santiago in 2019 and it was soon sung around the world, including by hundreds of thousands in Mexico City. Days before the Supreme Court made its ruling, Mexican women across the country quoted this song on Twitter.
The Mexican Supreme Court and our justices have now sent a signal to the entire Latin American region, where women continue to face obstacles to have a safe abortion. From Argentina to Mexico, the green tide continues the fight for our rights.
A spate of deaths and a mounting culture of violence at New York City’s largest jail renew calls for an emergency solution.
By Ginia Bellafante, September 24, 2021
Ms. Bellafante writes the Big City column, a weekly commentary on the politics, culture and life of New York City.https://www.nytimes.com/2021/09/24/admin/rikers-island-closing.html?action=click&module=Well&pgtype=Homepage§ion=New%20York
During the past few months, Rikers Island has been the site of sequential atrocities so stark that this week four members of New York’s congressional delegation called for its immediate closure. Among the most recent was the death, a few weeks ago, of 24-year old Esias “Izzy” Johnson, who had spent the previous month trying and failing to be released on bail and his final hours, his family claims, screaming for medical help in vain.
Just two weeks ago, Assemblywoman Jessica González-Rojas, touring the jail with other elected officials, witnessed a man try to hang himself with a bedsheet. On Sunday, Isaabdul Karim became the 11th person to die in custody at Rikers this year.
Mr. Karim died in the midst of a medical emergency after what his lawyers have said were weeks without the proper care. He had arrived at the jail 31 days earlier on a minor parole violation. But only 48 hours before he died, Gov. Kathy Hochul signed a law directed at ending the practice of detaining people for precisely these sorts of transgressions — ones that include missing curfews or appointments with parole officers, or failing drug or alcohol tests. New York State was incarcerating people for these violations at a rate nearly three times the national average, and advocates for criminal justice reform had been pushing for the change for a long time as one means of dealing with the crises that have been escalating at Rikers. Mr. Karim would have been eligible for release only a few days after he died.
Situated in one of the most forward-thinking cities on earth, Rikers — gradually and then seemingly all at once — has joined the ranks of the worst jails in the world, its early history having suggested a far more promising outcome. The 400-acre island, which had been serving as a garbage dump, opened as a jail site in the early 1930s, to replace the century-old penitentiary located farther south in the East River, on another island, Blackwell’s, where barbarism was endemic and which a visiting Charles Dickens once identified as “a listless madhouse.”
Writing in The Times in 1935, the art critic Edward Alden Jewell described a companion set of murals planned for a long corridor at Rikers, one of them depicting the prisoner’s life as it had been, “forced to undergo every manner of degradation,’' and the other dramatizing the crusading values of the New Deal.
“On this wall, we see the prisoner treated as a human being; more and more, even as an individual,’' he wrote, locating the images in “direct and telling opposition to the vicious system of the old.”
But it was the vicious system of the old that would ultimately prevail. Overcrowding was already a problem in the 1950s and ’60s. By the early 1970s, lawsuits alleging inhumane conditions were piling up. It was not until the 2015 suicide of Kalief Browder, who had been accused (but never convicted) of stealing a backpack as a teenager and was forced into solitary confinement, that calls for the jail to close became part of the mainstream conversation. Mayor Bill de Blasio did not initially join the chorus of those determined to produce this result. Early in 2016, as he promoted his $2.5 billion plan for a streetcar that would run along the Brooklyn-Queens waterfront, and seemingly oblivious to the dissonance, he called the idea of shutting Rikers a “noble concept” doomed by its expense.
The mayor revised his stance only after a report from an independent commission led by Jonathan Lippman, former chief judge of New York State’s highest court, recommending a path to eliminating the complex by creating smaller community jails near courthouses around the city and drastically reducing the jail population. The recommendations had a lot of support during an election year for Mr. de Blasio, even as some reformists found them distressingly pragmatic.
Four years after the Lippman Commission’s report was released, little progress has been made on the construction of those smaller jails, meant to accommodate light and air and move past the architectural brutalities that have characterized Rikers. Anticipating the complexities of constructing anything in New York City, the report called for Rikers to be completed within a decade. Plans to rebuild a detention center in Brooklyn — where one of the biggest real-estate booms in the country has evolved in spite of it — met predictable resistance. So too did the plan for a jail in the South Bronx.
The delaying opposition appeared on two fronts, one led by NIMBY-ists and the other by advocates on the left who have sought to abolish jails altogether. Beyond that, until the federal stimulus was passed, the city was operating on a $9 billion deficit. Now that those challenges have been overcome, contracts for the new buildings should be registered by the end of this year, city officials say.
I recently spoke with Judge Lippman about the prospects for quick completion at this moment of political transition. Mr. Lippman has spoken to Eric Adams, New York’s presumptive next mayor, about Rikers, many times. “He is totally committed to closing it,’’ Mr. Lippman told me. “We have to get shovels in the ground and do whatever it takes to cut the red tape,’’ he added. “But It’s very hard to concentrate on building when you have a parallel track, a place in crisis every day.”
That crisis is partly a function of a jail population that was driven up again as the pandemic slowed the function of the courts and a work slowdown among correction officers at Rikers that prompted the city to file a lawsuit against the union recently. The lawsuit was dropped after the union agreed to discipline officers who pretended to be sick to avoid work.
“This is the moment,” Mr. Lippman said. “This is it. What has happened the last few months at Riker’s only highlights that you have to proceed with lightning speed. It’s not simple. But it’s not nuclear science, either.”
Body-camera footage shows the ex-trooper, Jacob Brown, repeatedly pummeling a Black man, Aaron Larry Bowman, with a flashlight during a traffic stop in 2019.
By Derrick Bryson Taylor, Sept. 24, 2021
"The A.P., citing State Police records, reported that Mr. Brown, who is white, had been involved in 23 instances that involved use of force, dating to 2015 — 19 of them targeting Black people."
A federal grand jury indicted a former Louisiana state trooper on Thursday on a federal civil rights violation, finding that he repeatedly clubbed a Black man with a flashlight during a traffic stop that was recorded by his body camera.
The former trooper, Jacob Brown, 31, was charged with one count of deprivation of rights under color of law, the U.S. attorney’s office for the Western District of Louisiana said in a news release. If convicted, he faces up to 10 years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of up to $250,000.
The indictment comes after the body-camera footage surfaced last month showing Mr. Brown striking Aaron Larry Bowman about 18 times in the head and chest with a flashlight while Mr. Bowman was pinned to the ground after a traffic stop in May 2019.
Mr. Brown later told investigators that he had used a flashlight as a baton as part of what he called “pain compliance,” according to an affidavit. Federal prosecutors described the flashlight as having a metal tactical cap designed for breaking glass.
As a result of the beating, Mr. Bowman sustained a broken jaw, three fractured ribs, a broken wrist and a gash to his head that required six staples to close, according to a lawyer who is representing him in a civil rights lawsuit filed last year in Louisiana against the State Police.
Mr. Brown, of Rayville, La., was arrested in February on charges of aggravated second-degree battery and malfeasance in office in connection with the assault. He resigned a month later. He also faces criminal charges in two unrelated excessive-force cases.
Ronald S. Haley, one of two lawyers representing Mr. Bowman, said in a statement on Friday that the indictment was a “step in the right direction for accountability and justice.”
“This indictment is an unequivocal message to the state of Louisiana: If the state will not seek justice for police brutality, we will ensure that the U.S. Department of Justice achieves it,” Mr. Haley said.
A lawyer representing Mr. Brown did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Friday.
In the body-camera video that was obtained and published by The Associated Press, Mr. Bowman can be heard pleading with law enforcement officers in Monroe, La. “I’m not resisting,” he yells between blows. “I’m not resisting.” He was later taken to a hospital.
Mr. Bowman, now 46, was charged with resisting a police officer with force or violence, battery of a police officer, flight from an officer and improper lane use. He pleaded not guilty.
An offense report filed with the Ouachita Parish Sheriff’s Office said that Mr. Bowman had ignored the lights and sirens of a deputy who tried to pull him over after the S.U.V. Mr. Bowman was driving crossed the centerline of a road. The deputy said that Mr. Bowman had struck him on the head with a closed fist and had struggled with him after telling officers that he had been afraid to pull over and wanted to park the vehicle at his home in case he went to jail.
A Louisiana State Police spokeswoman said last month that an investigation had determined that Mr. Brown’s body-camera footage had been “intentionally mislabeled.”
The A.P., citing State Police records, reported that Mr. Brown, who is white, had been involved in 23 instances that involved use of force, dating to 2015 — 19 of them targeting Black people.
Just weeks before the violent encounter with Mr. Bowman, Louisiana State Police troopers assigned to Troop F in Monroe had dragged, beaten and used a stun gun on another Black man, Ronald Greene. The encounter with Mr. Greene, who died as he was being taken to a hospital, was also captured in body-camera footage.
The State Police initially told Mr. Greene’s relatives that he had died from injuries sustained in a car crash after a high-speed chase, making no mention of the use of force by troopers.
Mr. Brown is among four troopers assigned to Troop F who were arrested earlier this year on charges that they used excessive force and deactivated their body cameras during arrests.
The U.S. attorney’s office said on Thursday that it had ongoing criminal investigations into encounters involving Louisiana state troopers that resulted in death or bodily injury.
By Robin Kaiser-Schatzlein, Sept. 24, 2021
Mr. Kaiser-Schatzlein, a journalist, has written extensively about work, business and economic policy.
"According to a new report by the Institute for Policy Studies, the 27 richest American dynastic families have seen their wealth grow by a combined 1,007 percent since 1983, while the typical family has seen its wealth increase only by 93 percent over nearly the same period. This divergence has only become more pronounced with the onset of the pandemic: Since March 2020, the median growth in the net worth of the top 10 families was 25 percent."
Most people have probably never heard of a “stepped up basis,” but it might just be the most important tax loophole in America — one that billionaires use to pass vast sums of wealth down to their heirs by avoiding capital gains taxes.
This supremely obscure and yet wildly consequential rule concerns assets passed from one person to another when they die. If a parent buys a stock for $1 and leaves it to their child (or for that matter, anyone) in their will, the tax code changes — or “steps up” — its base value, from the original price to whatever it was worth when the person died. Say that stock was worth $100 when the person died. If the child sells it later for, say, $150, the child would owe taxes only on the $50 upside, instead of the entire $149 profit the family made off the stock over the course of two generations. In April, former Senator Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota called it “one of the biggest scams in the history of forever.”
For a select few families with vast fortunes amassed over many generations, it means that they can pass down millions or billions of dollars in stock, investments or real estate without having to pay income or capital gains taxes on many decades, or possibly a century or more, of gains. The windfall grows each time the money is transferred, endowing those families with disproportionate power for generations to come.
And for the first time in years, there’s a chance that the loophole could be reformed.
But while President Biden wants to overhaul “stepped up basis” to help finance his ambitious social spending plan, some members of his own party have joined up with Republicans and lobbyists for the wealthiest American families to fight tooth and nail to keep it on the books. The House Ways and Means Committee pointedly left the reform of “stepped up basis” out of the tax plan it released earlier this month. But the reconciliation process is far from over. The reform could be introduced into the bill before it reaches the House floor. The stakes are high, because what’s on the line is nothing less than who we are as a country. If the rule’s supporters are successful, they will lock in a system that has created extreme wealth and that hands enormous political power to just a few families.
According to a new report by the Institute for Policy Studies, the 27 richest American dynastic families have seen their wealth grow by a combined 1,007 percent since 1983, while the typical family has seen its wealth increase only by 93 percent over nearly the same period. This divergence has only become more pronounced with the onset of the pandemic: Since March 2020, the median growth in the net worth of the top 10 families was 25 percent.
The divergence isn’t just the natural product of the free market. It’s the result of fastidious lobbying that creates powerful dynasties with the cash to create a skewed debate.
One effective strategy lobbyists have used, said the Columbia Law School professor Michael Graetz, is to make farmers, rather than wealthy families, the face of the fight. Former Senator Max Baucus, a Democrat from Montana, made this case in a recent column in The Wall Street Journal, claiming that reforming the loophole would “destroy farms and ranches” by saddling their owners with crushing taxes.
This argument is profoundly misleading. If Congress agrees to reform the loophole, it could easily make sure any farm that stays within a family can defer these taxes indefinitely. And farms are not the main group affected by the loophole anyway. According to IRS data, most of the wealth transferred at death is not assets like farms, but portfolio wealth — stocks, bonds and other investments.
But that hasn’t stopped at least one Democrat who once saw the wisdom of reforming the loophole from apparently turning heel. In the five months since she called the “stepped up basis” loophole a scam, Ms. Heitkamp has become one of the leading voices lobbying to keep it on the books, through a new nonprofit she chairs called Save America’s Family Enterprise. (Ms. Heitkamp has said that she objects to the way in which Mr. Biden is proposing to reform the loophole, but would favor a different solution.)
To some extent, the name of her organization is apt, but the family enterprises the group is working to save could have familiar last names like Walton, DuPont and Koch. Others are less well known, like the intensely secretive and politically active Mars family, owners of Mars Inc., a company known for candy, prepared rice and pet food that was founded in 1911. Family members keep a low profile (few pictures of the family exist — the patriarch Forrest Mars Sr. once threw a napkin over his head to avoid a photographer), but they’ve spent millions to eliminate the estate tax over the years. The Mars family has not publicly come out against Mr. Biden’s proposed “stepped up basis” reform, but in 2020 alone, they devoted $720,000 to “issues related to estate and gift tax reform,” according to the Institute for Policy Studies.
There’s a lot at stake. Since 1983, the family’s fortune has grown 3,517 percent.
Their descendants — and the children of today’s oligarchs, like Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk — stand to inherit unthinkable sums of money, further concentrating wealth and political power away from the rest of society, including small businesses and farmers. Stepped up basis could shield billions of dollars in inherited wealth. Bob Lord, tax counsel for Americans for Tax Fairness, estimates Mr. Bezos’s heirs could avoid up to $300 billion in income tax liability if he leaves them $1 trillion in Amazon stock. Wealth easily buys political power. The longer we fail to constrain inherited wealth, the sooner the dream of a democratic society dies.
But there are clear solutions. Eric Kades, a professor at William and Mary Law School, suggested that Mr. Biden can reverse the expansion of hereditary wealth and power, not only by throwing his full weight behind a push to strong-arm the House into including the reform of “stepped up basis” in the final bill, but also by increasing IRS enforcement and cracking down on dynastic trusts by ensuring that all trusts are dissolved after the children of the trust’s creator die, preventing the exponential growth of wealth over generations. He calls it a federal “rule against perpetuities.” Mr. Kades said these rules emerged centuries ago in England when judges noticed that inherited wealth was getting out of hand. In England, those laws are still on the books. But in America, rules against perpetuities have effectively disappeared. It’s a bizarre twist in history. “Today,” Mr. Kades said, “we’re a more feudal society than the British.”
The ranks of home health aides are expected to grow more than any other job in the next decade. What kind of work are they being asked to do?
By Liz Donovan and Muriel Alarcón, Sept. 25, 2021https://www.nytimes.com/2021/09/25/business/home-health-aides-industry.html
For 15 years, Yvette Dessin spent long work days with her elderly patients, accompanying them on walks, cooking them meals and bathing those who needed that most intimate kind of care. If a patient died, Ms. Dessin and her adult daughter attended the funeral services to pay their respects.
Ms. Dessin worked up to 60 hours a week as a home health aide, her daughter said, making minimum wage. She often worried about being able to pay the mortgage on her Queens home. She was one of roughly 2.4 million home care workers in the United States — most of them low-income women of color and many of them immigrants — who assist elderly or disabled patients in private residences or group homes.
The industry is in the midst of enormous growth. By 2030, 21 percent of the American population will be at the retirement age, up from 15 percent in 2014, and older adults have long been moving away from institutionalized care. In a 2018 AARP survey, 76 percent of those ages 50 and older said they preferred to remain in their current residence as they age. In 2019, national spending on home health care reached a high of $113.5 billion, a 40 percent increase from 2013, according to the most recent data from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
The ranks of home care aides are expected to grow by more than those of any other job in the next decade, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. It’s also among the lowest paying occupations on the list.
Nearly one in five aides lives below the poverty line. In six states, the average hourly wage for home care aides is less than $11, and nationally, the median pay has increased just $1.75 an hour over the last decade, when adjusted for inflation.
Much of the aides’ low wages are paid for with taxpayer dollars — about two-thirds of home care revenue is through public programs, primarily Medicaid, according to the nonprofit PHI, which monitors the eldercare work force. The state and the federal government — and sometimes the local municipality — split the cost of Medicaid, which makes for varying rules from state to state, including on what services home health aides can provide.
The pandemic only made things worse, exposing the vulnerability of not only the elderly and infirm but also of those who care for them. As Covid-19 spread across the country, many families turned to home health care as an alternative to nursing homes, which had become hot spots for the virus. Shortages of personal protective equipment made the work risky.
In conversations with more than 50 home health aides around the country, many workers described unpaid or late-paid wages, unaffordable benefits and chronic injuries. In New York City, home health workers qualify for sick leave, but many people interviewed said they were unaware of that or did not feel as though they were truly permitted to take time off. Nationwide, accounts from home health aides painted a picture of a rapidly expanding work force that operates under extreme stress and often in isolation, in a lightly regulated field.
For some, like Ms. Dessin, those conditions amid a pandemic proved fatal. She was at high-risk because of her age and pre-existing conditions and became one of at least 275 aides at her company who contracted the virus, according to her union. Her company said she was one of seven of its employees to die from Covid-19.
Ms. Dessin’s daughter, Dany St. Laurent, believes that her mother felt trapped during the pandemic.
“Her work came before everything,” she said. “Including herself.”
Private work, public regulation
Americare, Ms. Dessin’s employer, is one of about 1,500 home health care providers in New York State, and among the city’s largest, with more than 5,000 employees and about as many patients in the five boroughs and surrounding counties.
The private nature of the work makes oversight of home care agencies challenging, even when regulators try to step in.
In 2018, an investigation by the New York City Department of Consumer and Worker Protection found that Americare was among more than 30 home care agencies that had failed to follow paid sick leave regulations. It determined that Americare’s sick time policies violated city law and noted that the company had a “history of noncompliance with labor laws.” The company was ordered to change its policies, notify employees of their rights and train managers on complying with city sick leave law.
The company is also the subject of a lawsuit by workers claiming a systemic, longstanding underpayment of wages going back to 2005. In court documents, Americare denied the accusations. Oral arguments regarding the workers’ motion for the case to proceed as a class action are scheduled to begin later this year.
Americare was investigated twice by the attorney general’s office for Medicaid compliance issues — in 2005 for improper billing and in 2008 for failing to detect workers with falsified training certificates. The investigations resulted in a total of $15 million in reimbursements.
In an interview, an Americare representative said that Medicaid audit settlements were common in the industry.
In a written response, Bridget Gallagher, Americare’s vice president, said the company offers 21 days of paid time off and “shared this benefit information with their union.” Americare, she added, is dedicated to providing quality home care, citing its high patient care rating from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Over the past decade, Americare has received an average of $2.4 billion in annual payments from Medicare and Medicaid, according to data obtained through a records request.
There are an estimated 65,000 home care agencies across the country. Americare may have a fraught history, but it’s also a microcosm for the industry itself.
It has proved difficult for regulators to monitor such a rapidly growing work force. An official with the federal Department of Labor said it was partly a problem of its staffing, given all the industries the agency is charged with overseeing.
“We’ve always understood that our resources will never be enough to take on all the employers that are out there,” he said.
‘Doing what she loved’
When Ms. Dessin moved to New York from Haiti in the mid-1980s, she realized that the unpaid caregiving work she had been doing in her home country was a marketable skill.
Speaking nine months after her mother’s death, Ms. St. Laurent described how life in New York looks from Haiti — “as if money grows on trees,” she told us last winter. “From what they’ve seen on the internet, you could just go in the garden and pick up $100.”
For almost two decades, Ms. Dessin ran a day care center out of her apartment. In 2005, at 50 years old, she decided to pursue a home health aide certification. When she completed the training program that fall, she had her certificate framed.
This lure of education and financial independence also drew Helen Monah, a Guyanese immigrant who moved to New York City in 2018 and began home health care training. She texted her daughter, Rubena Durbin, photos of her progress — a stack of open textbooks and pictures of herself in glasses and scrubs. In December, she was hired by Americare.
“She was so happy to be working in that environment doing what she loved,” Ms. Durbin said.
The work itself was onerous. Apart from regular patient care, Americare home health aides are also required to provide “light housekeeping,” including washing toilets, dusting and removing garbage, according to an employee handbook obtained during the city’s 2018 investigation.
It also puts aides in close contact with their clients. They often have to lift and lower their patients, with their bodies pressed together and faces inches apart.
An executive of Americare acknowledged that in the early pandemic, personal protective equipment was in short supply, so the company gave priority to workers assigned to high-risk patients. The executive said that the company distributed information in multiple languages on how workers could protect themselves and that workers were permitted to use paid time off as needed, adding that at one point in April 2020, as many as 250 aides were quarantining.
“Numerous Americare nurses, therapists and aides said they would not be able to work due to their own underlying conditions, family concerns or general anxiety — decisions that we’ve honored and respected,” said Ms. Gallagher, Americare’s vice president.
As of August 2021, at least 275 Americare aides had been infected with Covid-19, according to Francine Streich, a field director at United Food and Commercial Workers Local 2013, the union representing Americare workers. She noted, though, that the number is probably an undercount as the company has stopped providing numbers of cases to the union. Americare said that number was accurate as of February; it did not provide an updated number.
According to their daughters, Ms. Monah and Ms. Dessin both felt pressure to take all cases offered to them at the risk of losing their stable schedules. If workers decline three shifts in a three-month period, they are put last on the list for another case, according to a union bargaining agreement in place through March 2019. It also says, “There is no guaranteed work day, week, year or hours of work.”
“When you tell them ‘no,’” said Ms. St. Laurent, “You are going to pay for that ‘no.’ You’re going to feel that ‘no.’”
Life on a ‘live-in shift’
Working overnight makes an already isolating and demanding job even more so. Aides assigned to “live-in shifts” spend 24 hours a day at a patient’s home, sometimes for several days in a row. The aides are paid for only 13 hours of that time because they are expected to get eight hours of sleep and three hours of meal breaks, according to New York State guidelines and federal regulations.
But the aides interviewed said sleep is contradictory to the job. Dementia patients need round-the-clock attention to prevent self-injury, and many patients must be turned every few hours overnight.
Home health aides are classified as “domestic service” workers, many of whom were exempt from a set of labor protections known as the Fair Labor Standards Act until 2015, when the Department of Labor expanded its regulations. Since enforcement of those new regulations began, back wages tied to violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act by home health care employers have topped $47 million nationally — at least $4.7 million in New York alone, the third-highest in the country after Virginia ($10.1 million) and Pennsylvania ($6.5 million), according to Department of Labor data.
In New York, labor organizers and legislators are taking aim at the 24-hour shift. In March 2019, the New York State Court of Appeals ruled that aides must be paid for all 24 hours of a live-in shift if they do not receive the breaks to which they are legally entitled — but proving it can be complicated, multiple lawyers said. It is up to the employer to find an effective method of documenting those hours and compensating the aide for them.
Roger Noyes, then spokesman of the Home Care Association of New York State, of which Americare is a member, said paying for all 24 hours would bankrupt the system without financial support from Medicaid to cover those costs.
The New York State Department of Labor has investigations underway specifically related to underpayments of regular and overtime wages for hours worked for “live-in” shifts, a department official confirmed.
Manhattan Assemblyman Harvey Epstein referred to the 13-hour rule as “government-sanctioned wage theft.”
In January, he introduced a bill that would replace the 24-hour shift with two 12-hour shifts and ban forced overtime. It is still sitting in committee.
“I don’t really know why people don’t seem to prioritize this,” Mr. Epstein said, “but I think it is because they’re mostly low-income immigrant women of color, and that’s a forgotten population.”
Working through the pandemic
As the pandemic began spreading through the city, Dany St. Laurent and Rubena Durbin both tried to persuade their mothers to quit. But their paychecks helped them achieve the financial independence both women had yearned for most of their lives.
Ms. Dessin spent March 2020 working as many hours as possible — 40 hours a week from Americare and more from another company.
Later that month, she came home from work exhausted.
“Mom, stay home, call out sick,” her daughter, Ms. St. Laurent, pleaded, as Ms. Dessin sat down to catch her breath on the couch.
But Ms. Dessin was only five months away from when she had planned to retire, and decided to keep working.
Several days later, her condition had worsened. Ms. Dessin struggled to walk and needed her daughter to wash her hair as she sat on a chair in the bathtub. She had regularly done this ritual for her elderly clients and had told her daughter she never wanted to be on the receiving end of such intimate assistance.
The next day, Ms. St. Laurent drove her mother to the hospital. She was put on a ventilator that same night. Four days later, on April 7, Ms. Dessin was gone.
Meanwhile, Ms. Monah had bought a ticket back to Guyana for her son’s wedding, her first visit in four years. After this trip, she told her daughter, maybe she’d go on a cruise. “Once she got to New York and started making her own money, she wanted to live,” said Ms. Durbin.
Ms. Durbin was concerned when her mother told her that an aide who had worked a shift before her at a patient’s house was coughing, but Ms. Monah assured her daughter that she’d cleaned the area with supplies she bought with her own money.
By April, she, too, had become ill and was treating her flulike symptoms with home remedies and over-the-counter medicines. On April 11, she began experiencing acute pain in her legs and stomach.
At the hospital, doctors diagnosed a blood clot in her stomach related to Covid-19 and recommended surgery. She sent her daughter a voice note via WhatsApp. “I’m going to make it,” she said through fits of raspy coughing. “I’m a fighter.”
But Ms. Monah never woke up, and on April 26 — three weeks after Ms. Dessin’s death — she, too, died.
Back to ‘business as usual’
On July 27, workers and advocates testified before members of three New York State Senate committees during a hearing in Albany and insisted on higher wages and better working conditions.
“We should be able to take care of our own families while providing care for other families,” said Lilieth Clacken, a 61-year-old home health aide and member of the 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East union. “The work is undervalued and underpaid.”
Ms. Clacken and others are making some headway: In March, state lawmakers introduced New York’s Fair Pay for Home Care Act, which would increase the minimum wage for home care aides, though it has not yet moved to a floor vote.
And last spring, President Joe Biden introduced a $400 billion proposal to increase these workers’ wages and improve overall access to long-term care; the amount of funding is still being negotiated in Congress.
Americare now has a training video on its website showing how to wear personal protective equipment. It also encourages workers to get a Covid-19 vaccination at the company’s office.
Ms. St. Laurent wishes her mother had been given more information about the virus. “They’re not just old people taking care of old people,” she said. “They’re just as important.”
Last fall, the same month that Ms. Dessin had planned to retire, she and Ms. Monah instead were acknowledged together in a makeshift memorial tacked on the wall in Americare’s Brooklyn office. In a photo of the memorial posted on the company’s website, seven identical paper posters feature the same stock image of a sunset over water, a company logo, and the name of a worker who died from Covid-19.
The company, the post on its website read, is now back to “business as usual.”