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, 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: email@example.com
Please endorse now: http://spiritofmandela.org/endorse/
Dr. A’isha Mohammad
– Coordinating Committee
Created in 2018, In the Spirit of Mandela Coalition is a growing grouping of organizers, academics, clergy, attorneys, and organizations committed to working together against the systemic, historic, and ongoing human rights violations and abuses committed by the USA against Black, Brown, and Indigenous People. The Coalition recognizes and affirms the rich history of diverse and militant freedom fighters Nelson Mandela, Winnie Mandela, Graca Machel Mandela, Rosa Parks, Fannie Lou Hamer, Ella Baker, and many more. It is in their Spirit and affirming their legacy that we work.
To: U.S. Senate, U.S. House of Representatives
Sign Petition at:
A BRILLIANT, BRAVE, BLACK POLITICAL JOURNALIST
PLEASE CALL AND EMAIL ON BEHALF OF KEVIN RASHID JOHNSON!
Jalil Muntaqim in the 2000 documentary, "Jalil Muntaqim: Voice of Liberation" by Freedom Archives on Vimeo
I call upon all those who identify themselves as progressive to recognize the U.S. prison system is an institution generally operated by white supremacists. This has been my experience in both California and New York State prison systems. In fact, on December 4th and 5th, 2016, the New York Times did a two day expose informing NYS prison system is run by white racists. However, among the many prison systems that function as a bastion of white supremacy, Lucasville, Ohio, is one of the worst in the country.
It is under these conditions that Kevin Rashid Johnson, a staunch advocate for the abolition of prisons is presently being threatened with the loss of his life. Being held in 23 hour lockdown, Rashid, is now in the worst condition of his life, locked away in a system of rabid racists that hate him for being a New Afrikan, a brilliant artist, a revolutionary and anti-capitalist imperialist. Since being transferred to Lucasville Rashid has been threatened, his personal property damaged and/or not given to him and must constantly be vigilant from being assaulted or murdered either by prison guards or their flunkies who mindlessly function as tools of white supremacy.
I am petitioning to the entire Progressive community to unite, to band together and say to the world… we will not permit Lucasville to murder Kevin Rashid Johnson. I am asking every single one of you to call the Governor of Ohio and demand Rashid be immediately transferred out of the notorious Lucasville prison. I ask that all of you contact the major Ohio newspapers and news outlets and urge them to find out why Kevin Rashid Johnson’s life is being threatened. We, collectively, need to shine a spotlight on Kevin Rashid Johnson, and let all know Rashid belongs to the people, that progressive people around the world support him and refuse to sit idle and let Rashid be murdered in Lucasville, Ohio!!!
To contact Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine: Call the governor’s office at 614-466-3555.
You will be prompted to go to his website to write out your message at:
Do that, but ALSO LEAVE A PHONE MESSAGE:
Tell the governor to transfer Kevin Johnson, A787991, out of Lucasville Prison immediately before he is murdered!
Remember: We Are Our Own Liberators
Jalil A. Muntaqim
Jalil A. Muntaqim, legendary analyst, theorist and stategist, author of We Are Our Own Liberators, veteran of the Black Panther Party and the Black Liberation Army, co-founder of the Jericho Movement, born in Oakland, raised in San Francisco, survived 49 years in prison, from 1971 to Oct. 7, 2020. Learn about his current campaign at SpiritofMandela.organd join in preparations for the International Tribunal on Oct. 22-25, when “We Charge Genocide” again.
𝘼𝙡𝙡 𝙋2𝙋 𝙤𝙣 𝙩𝙝𝙞𝙨 𝙨𝙚𝙘𝙤𝙣𝙙 𝙙𝙖𝙮 𝙤𝙛 𝘽𝙡𝙖𝙘𝙠 𝘼𝙪𝙜𝙪𝙨𝙩. 𝙊𝙪𝙧 𝙘𝙤𝙢𝙧𝙖𝙙𝙚 𝙍𝙖𝙨𝙝𝙞𝙙 𝙨𝙩𝙞𝙡𝙡 𝙣𝙚𝙚𝙙𝙨 𝙤𝙪𝙧 𝙖𝙨𝙨𝙞𝙨𝙩𝙖𝙣𝙘𝙚. 𝙄𝙩 𝙞𝙨𝙞𝙢𝙥𝙚𝙧𝙖𝙩𝙞𝙫𝙚 𝙩𝙝𝙖𝙩 𝙘𝙖𝙡𝙡𝙨 𝙖𝙣𝙙 𝙚𝙢𝙖𝙞𝙡𝙨 𝙨𝙩𝙞𝙡𝙡 𝙗𝙚 𝙢𝙖𝙙𝙚 𝙤𝙣 𝙝𝙞𝙨 𝙗𝙚𝙝𝙖𝙡𝙛 𝙩𝙤 𝙩𝙝𝙚 𝙘𝙤𝙣𝙩𝙖𝙘𝙩𝙨 𝙡𝙞𝙨𝙩𝙚𝙙 𝙗𝙚𝙡𝙤𝙬. 𝙎𝙤𝙢𝙚𝙤𝙣𝙚𝙘𝙤𝙣𝙩𝙖𝙘𝙩𝙚𝙙 𝙢𝙚 𝙚𝙖𝙧𝙡𝙞𝙚𝙧 𝙩𝙤 𝙩𝙚𝙡𝙡 𝙢𝙚 𝙩𝙝𝙖𝙩 𝙍𝙖𝙨𝙝𝙞𝙙'𝙨 𝙘𝙚𝙡𝙡 𝙝𝙖𝙨 𝙗𝙚𝙚𝙣 𝙨𝙚𝙖𝙧𝙘𝙝𝙚𝙙 𝙩𝙬𝙞𝙘𝙚 𝙩𝙝𝙞𝙨 𝙢𝙤𝙧𝙣𝙞𝙣𝙜 𝙖𝙨 𝙩𝙝𝙚𝙮𝙗𝙚𝙡𝙞𝙚𝙫𝙚 𝙩𝙝𝙖𝙩 𝙝𝙚 𝙞𝙨 𝙨𝙩𝙞𝙡𝙡 𝙘𝙤𝙢𝙢𝙪𝙣𝙞𝙘𝙖𝙩𝙞𝙣𝙜 𝙬𝙞𝙩𝙝 𝙩𝙝𝙚 𝙤𝙪𝙩𝙨𝙞𝙙𝙚. 𝙏𝙝𝙚 𝙤𝙩𝙝𝙚𝙧 𝙥𝙧𝙞𝙨𝙤𝙣𝙚𝙧𝙨 𝙝𝙖𝙫𝙚 𝙗𝙚𝙚𝙣 𝙞𝙣𝙨𝙩𝙧𝙪𝙘𝙩𝙚𝙙 𝙣𝙤𝙩 𝙩𝙤 𝙩𝙖𝙡𝙠 𝙩𝙤 𝙝𝙞𝙢 𝙤𝙧 𝙖𝙨𝙨𝙞𝙨𝙩 𝙝𝙞𝙢 𝙞𝙣 𝙖𝙣𝙮 𝙬𝙖𝙮. 𝙏𝙝𝙚 𝙥𝙞𝙜𝙨 𝙖𝙧𝙚 𝙖𝙩𝙩𝙚𝙢𝙥𝙩𝙞𝙣𝙜 𝙩𝙤 𝙨𝙤𝙬 𝙙𝙞𝙫𝙞𝙨𝙞𝙤𝙣 𝙥𝙚𝙧 𝙪𝙨𝙪𝙖𝙡. - Shupavu Wa Kirima
𝙒𝙚 𝙖𝙧𝙚 𝙨𝙩𝙞𝙡𝙡 𝙙𝙚𝙢𝙖𝙣𝙙𝙞𝙣𝙜 𝙩𝙝𝙚 𝙛𝙤𝙡𝙡𝙤𝙬𝙞𝙣𝙜:
1. 𝘼𝙣 𝙚𝙣𝙙 𝙩𝙤 𝙩𝙝𝙚 𝙗𝙤𝙜𝙪𝙨 30 𝙙𝙖𝙮 𝙧𝙚𝙨𝙩𝙧𝙞𝙘𝙩𝙞𝙤𝙣 𝙛𝙧𝙤𝙢 𝙥𝙝𝙤𝙣𝙚 𝙖𝙣𝙙 𝙚𝙢𝙖𝙞𝙡.
2. 𝘼𝙣 𝙚𝙣𝙙 𝙩𝙤 𝙩𝙝𝙚 𝙗𝙤𝙜𝙪𝙨 30 𝙙𝙖𝙮 𝙧𝙚𝙨𝙩𝙧𝙞𝙘𝙩𝙞𝙤𝙣 𝙛𝙧𝙤𝙢 𝙘𝙤𝙢𝙢𝙞𝙨𝙨𝙖𝙧𝙮 𝙩𝙝𝙖𝙩 𝙥𝙧𝙚𝙫𝙚𝙣𝙩𝙨 𝙍𝙖𝙨𝙝𝙞𝙙 𝙛𝙧𝙤𝙢 𝙤𝙧𝙙𝙚𝙧𝙞𝙣𝙜𝙨𝙩𝙖𝙩𝙞𝙤𝙣𝙚𝙧𝙮 𝙬𝙞𝙩𝙝 𝙬𝙝𝙞𝙘𝙝 𝙩𝙤 𝙬𝙧𝙞𝙩𝙚.
3. 𝙏𝙝𝙚 𝙞𝙢𝙢𝙚𝙙𝙞𝙖𝙩𝙚 𝙧𝙚𝙩𝙪𝙧𝙣 𝙤𝙛 𝘼𝙇𝙇 𝙤𝙛 𝙝𝙞𝙨 𝙥𝙧𝙤𝙥𝙚𝙧𝙩𝙮 𝙞𝙣𝙘𝙡𝙪𝙙𝙞𝙣𝙜 𝙩𝙝𝙚 $400 𝙩𝙝𝙖𝙩 𝙬𝙖𝙨 𝙤𝙣 𝙝𝙞𝙨 𝙩𝙧𝙪𝙨𝙩 𝙖𝙘𝙘𝙤𝙪𝙣𝙩𝙩𝙝𝙚𝙧𝙚 𝙖𝙩 𝙒𝙑𝘾𝙁 𝙖𝙣𝙙 𝙝𝙞𝙨 𝙡𝙚𝙜𝙖𝙡 𝙥𝙧𝙤𝙥𝙚𝙧𝙩𝙮 𝙬𝙝𝙞𝙘𝙝 𝙬𝙞𝙡𝙡 𝙚𝙣𝙖𝙗𝙡𝙚 𝙝𝙞𝙢 𝙩𝙤 𝙘𝙤𝙣𝙩𝙞𝙣𝙪𝙚 𝙬𝙞𝙩𝙝 𝙝𝙞𝙨 𝙘𝙖𝙨𝙚 𝙖𝙜𝙖𝙞𝙣𝙨𝙩 𝙩𝙝𝙚 𝙄𝙉𝘿𝙚𝙥𝙖𝙧𝙩𝙢𝙚𝙣𝙩 𝙤𝙛 𝘾𝙤𝙧𝙧𝙚𝙘𝙩𝙞𝙤𝙣𝙨. 𝙄𝙛 𝙩𝙝𝙚𝙮 𝙩𝙚𝙡𝙡 𝙮𝙤𝙪 𝙩𝙝𝙖𝙩 𝙝𝙞𝙨 𝙥𝙧𝙤𝙥𝙚𝙧𝙩𝙮 𝙝𝙖𝙨 𝙖𝙡𝙧𝙚𝙖𝙙𝙮 𝙗𝙚𝙚𝙣 𝙨𝙚𝙣𝙩 𝙩𝙝𝙚𝙣 𝙬𝙚 𝙣𝙚𝙚𝙙 𝙩𝙤𝙠𝙣𝙤𝙬 𝙤𝙣 𝙬𝙝𝙖𝙩 𝙙𝙖𝙩𝙚 𝙞𝙩 𝙬𝙖𝙨 𝙨𝙝𝙞𝙥𝙥𝙚𝙙 𝙖𝙣𝙙 𝙬𝙝𝙖𝙩 𝙛𝙖𝙘𝙞𝙡𝙞𝙩𝙮 𝙧𝙚𝙘𝙚𝙞𝙫𝙚𝙙 𝙞𝙩.
𝙏𝙝𝙖𝙣𝙠 𝙮𝙤𝙪 𝙖𝙡𝙡 𝙨𝙤 𝙢𝙪𝙘𝙝 𝙛𝙤𝙧 𝙮𝙤𝙪𝙧 𝙨𝙤𝙡𝙞𝙙𝙖𝙧𝙞𝙩𝙮 𝙖𝙣𝙙 𝙨𝙪𝙥𝙥𝙤𝙧𝙩. 𝙄 𝙖𝙥𝙥𝙧𝙚𝙘𝙞𝙖𝙩𝙚 𝙖𝙡𝙡 𝙤𝙛 𝙮𝙤𝙪. 𝙒𝙚 𝙖𝙧𝙚 𝙩𝙝𝙚 𝙊𝙉𝙇𝙔𝙡𝙞𝙣𝙚 𝙤𝙛 𝙙𝙚𝙛𝙚𝙣𝙨𝙚 𝙛𝙤𝙧 𝙤𝙪𝙧 𝙞𝙢𝙥𝙧𝙞𝙨𝙤𝙣𝙚𝙙 𝙘𝙤𝙢𝙧𝙖𝙙𝙚𝙨.
* 𝘼𝙣𝙣𝙚𝙩𝙩𝙚 𝘾𝙝𝙖𝙢𝙗𝙚𝙧𝙨-𝙎𝙢𝙞𝙩𝙝, 𝘿𝙞𝙧𝙚𝙘𝙩𝙤𝙧 𝙤𝙛 𝙊𝙝𝙞𝙤 𝘿𝙚𝙥𝙖𝙧𝙩 𝙤𝙛 𝙍𝙚𝙝𝙖𝙗𝙞𝙡𝙞𝙩𝙖𝙩𝙞𝙤𝙣 𝙖𝙣𝙙 𝘾𝙤𝙧𝙧𝙚𝙘𝙩𝙞𝙤𝙣𝙨 𝙥𝙡𝙚𝙖𝙨𝙚𝙘𝙤𝙣𝙩𝙖𝙘𝙩: 𝙈𝙚𝙡𝙞𝙨𝙨𝙖 𝘼𝙙𝙠𝙞𝙣𝙨 (𝙀𝙭𝙚𝙘𝙪𝙩𝙞𝙫𝙚 𝘼𝙨𝙨𝙞𝙨𝙩𝙖𝙣𝙩) 𝙫𝙞𝙖 𝙚𝙢𝙖𝙞𝙡: 𝙢𝙚𝙡𝙞𝙨𝙨𝙖.𝙖𝙙𝙠𝙞𝙣𝙨@𝙤𝙙𝙧𝙘.𝙨𝙩𝙖𝙩𝙚.𝙤𝙝.𝙪𝙨 𝙤 614-752-1153.
* 𝙍𝙤𝙣𝙖𝙡𝙙 𝙀𝙧𝙙𝙤𝙨, 𝙎𝙤𝙪𝙩𝙝𝙚𝙧𝙣 𝙊𝙝𝙞𝙤 𝘾𝙤𝙧𝙧𝙚𝙘𝙩𝙞𝙤𝙣𝙖𝙡 𝙁𝙖𝙘𝙞𝙡𝙞𝙩𝙮, 𝙒𝙖𝙧𝙙𝙚𝙣 (𝙇𝙪𝙘𝙖𝙨𝙫𝙞𝙡𝙡𝙚) (740)259-5544 𝙙𝙧𝙘.𝙨𝙤𝙘𝙛@𝙤𝙙𝙧𝙘.𝙨𝙩𝙖𝙩𝙚.𝙤𝙝𝙞𝙤.𝙪𝙨
*𝙅𝙤𝙨𝙚𝙥𝙝 𝙒𝙖𝙡𝙩𝙚𝙧𝙨, 𝘿𝙚𝙥. 𝘿𝙞𝙧𝙚𝙘𝙩𝙤𝙧 𝙑𝙞𝙧𝙜𝙞𝙣𝙞𝙖 𝘿𝙚𝙥𝙖𝙧𝙩𝙢𝙚𝙣𝙩 𝙊𝙛 𝘾𝙤𝙧𝙧𝙚𝙘𝙩𝙞𝙤𝙣𝙨𝙟𝙤𝙨𝙚𝙥𝙝.𝙬𝙖𝙡𝙩𝙚𝙧𝙨@𝙫𝙖𝙙𝙤𝙘.𝙫𝙞𝙧𝙜𝙞𝙣𝙞𝙖.𝙜𝙤𝙫 (𝙋𝙧𝙤𝙭𝙮 𝙛𝙤𝙧 𝙃𝙖𝙧𝙤𝙡𝙙 𝙒. 𝘾𝙡𝙖𝙧𝙠𝙚, 𝘿𝙞𝙧𝙚𝙘𝙩𝙤𝙧 𝙤𝙛 𝙩𝙝𝙚 𝘿𝙚𝙥𝙖𝙧𝙩𝙢𝙚𝙣𝙩 𝙤𝙛𝘾𝙤𝙧𝙧𝙚𝙘𝙩𝙞𝙤𝙣𝙨) (804)887-7982
*𝙅𝙖𝙢𝙚𝙨 𝙋𝙖𝙧𝙠, 𝙄𝙣𝙩𝙚𝙧𝙨𝙩𝙖𝙩𝙚 𝘾𝙤𝙢𝙥𝙖𝙘𝙩 𝘼𝙙𝙢𝙞𝙣𝙞𝙨𝙩𝙧𝙖𝙩𝙤𝙧 𝙅𝙖𝙢𝙚𝙨.𝙥𝙖𝙧𝙠@𝙫𝙖𝙙𝙤𝙘.𝙫𝙞𝙧𝙜𝙞𝙣𝙞𝙖.𝙜𝙤𝙫
* 𝘾𝙝𝙖𝙧𝙡𝙚𝙣𝙚 𝘽𝙪𝙧𝙠𝙚𝙩𝙩, 𝘿𝙞𝙧𝙚𝙘𝙩𝙤𝙧 𝘿𝙊𝘾 𝙊𝙢𝙗𝙪𝙙𝙨𝙢𝙖𝙣 𝘽𝙪𝙧𝙚𝙖𝙪 (𝙄𝙣𝙙𝙞𝙖𝙣𝙖) (317) 234-3190 𝙊𝙢𝙗𝙪𝙙@𝙞𝙙𝙤𝙖.𝙞𝙣.𝙜𝙤𝙫 𝙍𝙞𝙘𝙝𝙖𝙧𝙙 𝘽𝙧𝙤𝙬𝙣, 𝙒𝙖𝙧𝙙𝙚𝙣 𝙒𝙖𝙗𝙖𝙨𝙝 𝙑𝙖𝙡𝙡𝙚𝙮 𝘾𝙤𝙧𝙧𝙚𝙘𝙩𝙞𝙤𝙣𝙖𝙡 𝙁𝙖𝙘𝙞𝙡𝙞𝙩𝙮, 𝙄𝙣𝙙𝙞𝙖𝙣𝙖 (812) 398-5050
* 𝙍𝙞𝙘𝙝𝙖𝙧𝙙 𝘽𝙧𝙤𝙬𝙣, 𝙒𝙖𝙧𝙙𝙚𝙣 𝙒𝙖𝙗𝙖𝙨𝙝 𝙑𝙖𝙡𝙡𝙚𝙮 𝘾𝙤𝙧𝙧𝙚𝙘𝙩𝙞𝙤𝙣𝙖𝙡 𝙁𝙖𝙘𝙞𝙡𝙞𝙩𝙮, 𝙄𝙣𝙙𝙞𝙖𝙣𝙖 (812) 398-5050
*𝙘𝙤𝙣𝙩𝙖𝙘𝙩 𝙑𝙞𝙧𝙜𝙞𝙣𝙖 𝘿𝙊𝘾 𝙖𝙪𝙩𝙝𝙤𝙧𝙞𝙩𝙞𝙚𝙨 𝙗𝙚𝙘𝙖𝙪𝙨𝙚 𝙑𝘼 𝙥𝙧𝙞𝙨𝙤𝙣𝙚𝙧𝙨 𝙩𝙧𝙖𝙣𝙨𝙛𝙚𝙧𝙧𝙚𝙙 𝙤𝙣 𝙞𝙣𝙩𝙚𝙧-𝙨𝙩𝙖𝙩𝙚 𝙘𝙤𝙢𝙥𝙖𝙘𝙩𝙨 𝙖𝙧𝙚 𝙨𝙪𝙥𝙥𝙤𝙨𝙚𝙙 𝙩𝙤 𝙝𝙖𝙫𝙚 𝙖𝙡𝙡 𝙩𝙝𝙚 𝙧𝙞𝙜𝙝𝙩𝙨 𝙤𝙛 𝙑𝘼 𝙥𝙧𝙞𝙨𝙤𝙣𝙚𝙧𝙨. 𝙍𝙖𝙨𝙝𝙞𝙙 𝙬𝙖𝙨 𝙤𝙧𝙞𝙜𝙞𝙣𝙖𝙡𝙡𝙮 𝙞𝙣𝙘𝙖𝙧𝙘𝙚𝙧𝙖𝙩𝙚𝙙 𝙞𝙣 𝙑𝘼 𝙗𝙚𝙛𝙤𝙧𝙚 𝙩𝙧𝙖𝙣𝙨𝙛𝙚𝙧𝙨 𝙩𝙤 𝙊𝙧𝙚𝙜𝙤𝙣, 𝙏𝙚𝙭𝙖𝙨, 𝙁𝙡𝙤𝙧𝙞𝙙𝙖, 𝙄𝙣𝙙𝙞𝙖𝙣𝙖, 𝙖𝙣𝙙 𝙣𝙤𝙬 𝙊𝙝𝙞𝙤.
Our mailing address is:
P.O. Box 45699
Lucasville, OH 45699
Freedom for Major Tillery! End his Life Imprisonment!
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Contact: Governor's Press Office
Friday, May 28, 2021
Governor Newsom Announces Clemency Actions, Signs Executive Order for Independent Investigation of Kevin Cooper Case
SACRAMENTO – Governor Gavin Newsom today announced that he has granted 14 pardons, 13 commutations and 8 medical reprieves. In addition, the Governor signed an executive order to launch an independent investigation of death row inmate Kevin Cooper’s case as part of the evaluation of Cooper’s application for clemency.
The investigation will review trial and appellate records in the case, the facts underlying the conviction and all available evidence, including the results of the recently conducted DNA tests previously ordered by the Governor to examine additional evidence in the case using the latest, most scientifically reliable forensic testing.
The text of the Governor’s executive order can be found here:
The California Constitution gives the Governor the authority to grant executive clemency in the form of a pardon, commutation or reprieve. These clemency grants recognize the applicants’ subsequent efforts in self-development or the existence of a medical exigency. They do not forgive or minimize the harm caused.
The Governor regards clemency as an important part of the criminal justice system that can incentivize accountability and rehabilitation, increase public safety by removing counterproductive barriers to successful reentry, correct unjust results in the legal system and address the health needs of incarcerated people with high medical risks.
A pardon may remove counterproductive barriers to employment and public service, restore civic rights and responsibilities and prevent unjust collateral consequences of conviction, such as deportation and permanent family separation. A pardon does not expunge or erase a conviction.
A commutation modifies a sentence, making an incarcerated person eligible for an earlier release or allowing them to go before the Board of Parole Hearings for a hearing at which Parole Commissioners determine whether the individual is suitable for release.
A reprieve allows individuals classified by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation as high medical risk to serve their sentences in appropriate alternative placements in the community consistent with public health and public safety.
The Governor weighs numerous factors in his review of clemency applications, including an applicant’s self-development and conduct since the offense, whether the grant is consistent with public safety and in the interest of justice, and the impact of a grant on the community, including crime victims and survivors.
While in office, Governor Newsom has granted a total of 86 pardons, 92 commutations and 28 reprieves.
The Governor’s Office encourages victims, survivors, and witnesses to register with CDCR’s Office of Victims and Survivors Rights and Services to receive information about an incarcerated person’s status. For general Information about victim services, to learn about victim-offender dialogues, or to register or update a registration confidentially, please visit:
www.cdcr.ca.gov/Victim_Services/ or call 1-877-256-6877 (toll free).
Copies of the gubernatorial clemency certificates announced today can be found here:
Additional information on executive clemency can be found here:
Questions and comments may be sent to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Resources for Resisting Federal Repression
Since June of 2020, activists have been subjected to an increasingly aggressive crackdown on protests by federal law enforcement. The federal response to the movement for Black Lives has included federal criminal charges for activists, door knocks by federal law enforcement agents, and increased use of federal troops to violently police protests.
The NLG National Office is releasing this resource page for activists who are resisting federal repression. It includes a link to our emergency hotline numbers, as well as our library of Know-Your-Rights materials, our recent federal repression webinar, and a list of some of our recommended resources for activists. We will continue to update this page.
If you are contacted by federal law enforcement you should exercise all of your rights. It is always advisable to speak to an attorney before responding to federal authorities.
State and Local Hotlines
If you have been contacted by the FBI or other federal law enforcement, in one of the following areas, you may be able to get help or information from one of these local NLG hotlines for:
- Portland, Oregon: (833) 680-1312
- San Francisco, California: (415) 285-1041 or email@example.com
- Seattle, Washington: (206) 658-7963
If you are located in an area with no hotline, you can call the following number:
Know Your Rights Materials
The NLG maintains a library of basic Know-Your-Rights guides.
- Know Your Rights During Covid-19
- You Have The Right To Remain Silent: A Know Your Rights Guide for Encounters with Law Enforcement
- Operation Backfire: For Environmental and Animal Rights Activists
WEBINAR: Federal Repression of Activists & Their Lawyers: Legal & Ethical Strategies to Defend Our Movements: presented by NLG-NYC and NLG National Office
We also recommend the following resources:
- Grand Juries: Slideshow
Movement for Black Lives Legal Resources
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.”
The new law prohibits abortions after about six weeks, a very early stage of pregnancy. Many women are now traveling out of state for the procedure.
By Sabrina Tavernise, Sept. 26, 2021
“Marva Sadler, senior director of clinic services at Whole Woman’s Health, which operates four clinics in Texas, said she believed that many patients were not able to arrange childcare or take time off work without losing their jobs to travel to other states. ‘I think a majority of women are being sentenced to being parents,’ she said.”https://www.nytimes.com/2021/09/26/us/oklahoma-abortion.html
OKLAHOMA CITY — On a windy Tuesday morning, the parking lot outside a small brick building on the Southside of Oklahoma City was filling up fast. The first to arrive, a red truck shortly before 8 a.m., was from Texas. So was the second and the third.
The building houses one of Oklahoma’s four abortion clinics, and at least two-thirds of its scheduled patients now come from Texas. So many, in fact, that it is trying to hire more staff members and doctors to keep up. The increase is the result of a new law in Texas banning abortions after about six weeks, a very early stage of pregnancy. As soon as the measure took effect this month, Texans started traveling elsewhere, and Oklahoma, close to Dallas, has become a major destination.
“We had every line lit up for eight hours straight,” said Jennifer Reince, who works the front desk phones at the clinic, Trust Women Oklahoma City, describing the first week the measure was in force.
The effects of the new law have been profound: Texans with unwanted pregnancies have been forced to make decisions quickly, and some have opted to travel long distances for abortions. As clinics in surrounding states fill up, appointments are being scheduled for later dates, making the procedures more costly. Other women are having to carry their pregnancies to term.
Marva Sadler, senior director of clinic services at Whole Woman’s Health, which operates four clinics in Texas, said she believed that many patients were not able to arrange child care or take time off work without losing their jobs to travel to other states.
“I think a majority of women are being sentenced to being parents,” she said.
The law is the latest in a string of successes by the anti-abortion movement, which for years has pushed for more conservative judges and control over state legislatures. Now, the Supreme Court is preparing to take up an abortion case — the first to be argued before the court with all three of former President Donald J. Trump’s conservative appointees — that has the potential to remove federal protection for abortion altogether.
In Texas, the new state law has effectively accomplished that, at least for now.
Samerah was just five weeks pregnant when she lay on an examining table in Houston to get an ultrasound. It was Aug. 31, the day before the law went into effect. She had heard about it on the news and knew that it banned abortions after cardiac activity was detected. But when the doctor performed the ultrasound, there was no sound, and she was told to come back the next day for her procedure.
When she returned, and lay again in a darkened room, staring up at a set of paper dancers hanging from the ceiling, the doctor got a different result.
“He said ‘take a deep breath’ and budoom, budoom, budoom, all you hear is a heartbeat,” said Samerah, who is 22. “In that same breath, all the things I had been crossing my fingers about just came out, and I just bawled and bawled and bawled.”
She walked into the hallway, her mind racing, and saw other women there too.
“We were all just crying in the hallway like, ‘What are we going to do?’”
The answer for many women in her position has been to race to get an abortion in a different state. About half the patients at Hope Medical Group for Women in Shreveport, La., are now from Texas, up from about a fifth before the law. At Little Rock Family Planning Services, in Arkansas, Texas patients make up 19 percent of the caseload now, compared with less than 2 percent in August.
Oklahoma does not require two trips to a clinic to get an abortion in most cases, so it has been a common choice. Trust Women had 11 Texas patients in August; it has 110 so far in September. Patients come from as far away as Galveston and Corpus Christi. Some drive through the night, in time for a morning appointment. The high demand from Texas has meant that the clinic’s schedule is full for weeks. Last week, the earliest appointments were for mid-October.
Samerah, who requested that her last name not be published, arrived last Monday from Beaumont, a city near Houston, where she lives with her partner and their 2-year-old son.
The news of her pregnancy, she said, threatened the life they had built for him.
Their financial circumstances had only recently stabilized. She had gotten a customer service job. Her partner was driving a van for a medical service. They moved out of his family’s house into their own apartment. Their son has his own room. She bought new furniture: a sectional and a bed.
“This was our first time actually buying a brand-new out-of-the-box mattress, not off of Facebook or something,” she said.
She felt proud to be able to give her son attention, toys, a stable home, things she said she never had herself. But she could not afford to do that for two. “I don’t want to be that parent,” said Samerah, whose mother was a teenager when she was born. “I don’t want to bring my kid into something that I can’t afford to take care of, because they don’t deserve it. I grew up in that kind of reality. And I know what it does to people.”
Samerah said she had gotten an abortion once before, the year after her son was born, for similar reasons. She said she made an appointment to get an IUD immediately after her procedure on Tuesday.
As states pass more abortion restrictions, it increasingly is poor women who must grapple with their effects. Half of American women who got an abortion in 2014 lived in poverty, double the share from 1994, when about a quarter of the women who had abortions were low-income, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research group that supports abortion rights. Theories for why include demographic change, increased funding for abortions for low-income women, and higher-income women having more access to highly effective contraception.
The longer women have to wait, the more expensive their procedures become. Abortions at Trust Women range in cost from $650 for earlier stages to $2,350 for later stages. Financial assistance is also available.
Sarah, who works at a roofing company, found out she was 13 weeks pregnant on Aug. 23. But then the law went into effect, and she raced to find a clinic in another state.
“It has just been a scramble to get this taken care of, especially since I just ran out of time so quickly,” said Sarah, 21, who asked that her last name not be published to protect her privacy.
She finally got her abortion at the Oklahoma City clinic on Sept. 20. She had to put off a car payment to cover her part of the $1,550 charge. Her partner, a police officer, split the cost and drove her the three hours from Dallas where they live.
She said she had been on her own for some time. Her mother died in a car crash when she was 9, and her father died of cancer when she was 19. And though she feels much more financially stable now than in her teens — she was putting herself through college studying criminal justice until the coronavirus pandemic — she said she could not support a baby.
“I would have to put my life on hold,” she said. “I don’t know if I would be able to go back to school.”
Sarah had never been pregnant before, but she said she knew her decision was right. Still, it was difficult. In the weeks that she waited for her appointment, she said it was impossible not to think about what was growing inside her. The ultrasound confirming her pregnancy, which she received at a center run by an anti-abortion group, was performed by a woman who typed ‘Hi, Mommy,’ and ‘Hi, it’s me,' into the screen and gave Sarah the printout.
“It’s hard not to have the instinct to want to form a bond with it,” Sarah said. “And just having to remind myself every day, you can’t do it. Like it’s just not the time for you. So that’s been the hardest part.”
Trust Women draws anti-abortion groups too. An R.V. operated by anti-abortion activists that advertises free pregnancy tests and ultrasounds sometimes parks across the street at Rancho Village Food Mart.
Raymundo Marquez, 23, a cashier there, said his brother, an owner of the shop, allows it. But Mr. Marquez has conflicted feelings. He believes that abortion is wrong: When his girlfriend got pregnant in high school, they did not consider it. But he said it was hard to judge someone else for doing it, because he knows there are children who are homeless and neglected.
“It’s sad both ways,” he said.
By Tuesday afternoon, one protester had appeared, standing tall in a green flowered jacket and green flats, praying and looking toward the clinic’s security booth. Inside, Louis Padilla, the security guard, was watching her. She is a regular, and sometimes he walks outside to debate her.
Mr. Padilla said that he was Catholic and Republican, but that he was won over to the cause of the clinic after working there for a while. Each woman has her own story, he said, and who are men like him to judge them? He mows the clinic’s lawn, puts up its flag and sometimes fixes appliances because repairmen refuse to come to an abortion clinic. He even bought a drone with his own money to watch the protesters outside.
The situation in Texas may be temporary. A hearing on Oct. 1 will give the law’s opponents another chance to convince a judge to suspend it. But other restrictions are looming. In Oklahoma there are five, including a law that requires abortion providers to be board-certified obstetricians. If it takes effect as scheduled on Nov. 1, four of the eight doctors licensed to work at Trust Women could no longer do so.
Samerah made it to the Oklahoma clinic with the help of financial assistance funds, which covered plane tickets for her and her son. Her abortion was covered too. But her partner had to pay his own way there. He was fired, she said, when he asked for time off. And she lost several days’ pay.
She does not believe that the people who passed the law considered the consequences for women like her. Those officials, she said, go to their jobs in “their car that doesn’t have problems starting up, with a tire that is not flat.”
Meanwhile, she and her partner and her son will go back to Texas to a real fear that they may not be able to pay rent for October.
“I have to go home and figure out what to do in the next month, and the next month is in a couple of weeks. Like what am I going to do, you know?”
Clare Toeniskoetter contributed reporting. Sheelagh McNeill contributed research.
Insurers say it’s price-gouging, but a law left an opening for some labs to charge any price they wished.
By Sarah Kliff, Sept. 26, 2021https://www.nytimes.com/2021/09/26/upshot/cost-of-covid-rapid-test-prices.html
At the drugstore, a rapid Covid test usually costs less than $20.
Across the country, over a dozen testing sites owned by the start-up company GS Labs regularly bill $380.
There’s a reason they can. When Congress tried to ensure that Americans wouldn’t have to pay for coronavirus testing, it required insurers to pay certain laboratories whatever “cash price” they listed online for the tests, with no limit on what that might be.
GS Labs’s high prices and growing presence — it has performed a half-million rapid tests since the pandemic’s start, and still runs thousands daily — show how the government’s longstanding reluctance to play a role in health prices has hampered its attempt to protect consumers. As a result, Americans could ultimately pay some of the cost of expensive coronavirus tests in the form of higher insurance premiums.
Many health insurers have refused to pay GS Labs’s fees, some contending that the laboratory is price-gouging during a public health crisis. A Blue Cross plan in Missouri has sued GS Labs over its prices, seeking a ruling that would void $10.9 million in outstanding claims.
In court last month, the insurer claimed that the fees were “disaster profiteering,” and in violation of public policy.
Omaha-based GS Labs contends the exact opposite: that it has public policy on its side, pointing to the CARES Act passed in 2020. “Insurers are obligated to pay cash price, unless we come to a negotiated rate,” said Christopher Erickson, a partner at GS Labs.
The requirement that insurers pay the cash price applies only to out-of-network laboratories, meaning those that have not negotiated a price with the insurer. There are signs other laboratories may be acting like GS Labs: A study published this summer by America’s Health Insurance Plans, the trade association that represents insurers, found that the share of coronavirus tests conducted at out-of-network facilities rose to 27 percent from 21 percent between April 2020 and March 2021.
It found that the average price for a coronavirus test at an in-network facility was $130, a figure that includes both rapid tests and the more widely used, and more expensive, PCR tests. About half of out-of-network providers are charging at least $50 more than that.
The $380 cash price is posted on the GS Labs website. In legal documents, it has said that it pays “approximately $20” for the rapid test itself. Mr. Erickson says the high price reflects the “premium service” they provide patients, as well as the $37 million in start-up costs associated with building their laboratory network in less than a year.
“You can book 15 minutes out with us on any given day, and get your results in 15 to 20 minutes,” Mr. Erickson said, pointing to the scarcity of testing at many drugstores. “We have a nursing hotline where you can get your results interpreted. Our pricing is one of the most expensive in the nation because we have the best service in the nation.”
Health policy experts who reviewed the GS Labs prices said that, even with the company’s investment in its service, it was hard to understand why their tests should cost eight times the Medicare rate of $41.
“This is not like neurosurgery where you might want to pay a premium for someone to have years of experience,” said Sabrina Corlette, a research professor at Georgetown who has studied coronavirus testing prices.
Even though she felt its price was exceptionally high, Ms. Corlette and other experts said GS Labs had strong legal grounds to continue charging it because of how Congress wrote the CARES Act. “Whatever price the lab puts on their public-facing website, that is what has to be paid,” she said. “I don’t read a whole lot of wiggle room in it.”
GS Labs is owned by City+Ventures, a real estate and investment firm. It started its first testing site last October and, at its peak, operated 30 locations across the country.
As it began increasing testing last year, it inquired about becoming an in-network provider, offering what it described as “substantial discounts” in return for reliable and prompt payments. The company declined to specify the exact size of its discount, but said that insurers generally rejected its proposals.
GS Labs said it felt insurers were hostile to its new operation.Some sent their members explanation-of-benefit documents, showing that the claim had been denied and that the patient might have to pay the full amount.
GS Labs says it does not pursue fees directly from patients, which would violate federal law, and says those mailings were a tactic to turn customers against its business.
“They try to paint us in a bad light when they’re the ones not following federal law,” said Kirk Thompson, another GS Labs partner. “Insurers have made a decision to ignore their obligations or justify not following the CARES Act.”
Insurers describe the interactions differently. They say they are doing their best, within the bounds of federal law, to protect patients from unnecessary high fees that will ultimately drive up premiums.
UPMC Health Plan in Pittsburgh first became aware of GS Labs when it saw an unusual pattern on its claims: The vast majority included a rapid antigen test alongside a Covid antibody test. Of all claims the health plan received from any laboratory with this combination of billing codes, it said 91 percent came from GS Labs.
“There is very little reason to order both of those tests on the same day,” said Stephen Perkins, the health plan’s chief medical officer. “They serve very different purposes, and they would not be systematically ordered as a result of suspected Covid exposure.”
The health plan saw this as evidence that GS Labs was gaming the CARES Act: Insurers are required to fully cover antigen and antibody tests. “The CARES Act governs what we can and can’t do, and we can’t refuse to pay for the double billing,” he said.
GS Labs says that it offers patients a “menu of tests,” and that the patient chooses which ones to get.
The UPMC health plan has decided, however, to challenge GS Labs pricing in other ways. At one point, the plan’s legal staff noticed the laboratory advertised a 70 percent coupon available to cash-pay patients, which would bring the price down to $114. The coupon has since been removed from the GS Labs website.
“We told GS Labs that we believed that was their cash price, and that is what we are now paying them,” said Sheryl Kashuba, the plan’s chief legal officer.
Evan White, general counsel at City+Ventures, said his company was still evaluating “next steps” with the health plan. “We are by no means content with what they have self-imposed as their rate,” he said.
What actually counts as the GS Labs cash price — and whether insurers will ultimately have to pay it — may be settled in Congress or the courts.
In July, Blue Cross Blue Shield Kansas City argued in a lawsuit against GS Labs that the discounted price sometimes offered to patients who cover the test themselves — the $114 fee that UPMC Health Plan also discovered — is the company’s actual cash price.
“GS Labs knowingly and willfully executed a scheme or artifice to defraud health insurers and plans by posting a sham cash price,” the health plan said in its legal brief, “and then demanding that group health plans and insurers pay those same sham cash prices.”
GS Labs has responded that just because it gave discounts to some patients, that does not mean insurers are “entitled to pay only a small fraction of the published cash price.” It has countersued the Blue Cross plan, contending the plan must pay nearly $10 million for 34,621 outstanding claims.
Congress, legislating quickly amid a health crisis in 2020 and settling on policies that would be easy to roll out, did not use the formula it recently adopted to pass legislation against surprise billing: mandate that insurers and medical providers settle price differences via an outside arbitrator.
Senator Tina Smith, Democrat of Minnesota, proposed a bill in July that would cap coronavirus test reimbursement to twice the Medicare reimbursement rate. For rapid tests, that would be about $80.
In introducing her legislation, Senator Smith cited The Times’s reporting on high-priced tests as evidence for why such a change was needed.
“If these labs are going to take advantage of this situation, and charge whatever the market will bear, that pushes us into putting a limit on the cash price to stop the price gouging that is hurting consumers,” she said in an interview.
It’s unclear whether that legislation could become part of the reconciliation package that Congress is debating. There may be a hesitance to act: Legislators are tackling larger health care proposals, and they may expect the issue of testing fees to resolve on its own when the pandemic ends.
“Everyone keeps thinking we’re almost done, and this provision of the CARES Act only lasts as long as the public health emergency,” said Loren Adler, associate director of the U.S.C.-Brookings Schaeffer Initiative for Health Policy.
GS Labs plans to continue expanding, as demand for rapid testing remains robust. It does not see the Biden administration’s plan of widespread in-home rapid testing as an obstacle to its growth. It now operates 16 testing sites, and has plans to open two more soon. When those open, its cash price will remain the same.
“We’re very reasonable people, but our cash price is a true cash price for any insurer that does not want to negotiate,” Mr. Thompson of GS Labs said.
By Blacki Migliozzi and Hiroko Tabuchi, Sept. 26, 2021https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2021/09/26/climate/ida-oil-spills.html
When Hurricane Ida barreled into the Louisiana coast with near 150 mile-per-hour winds on Aug. 30, it left a trail of destruction. The storm also triggered the most oil spills detected from space after a weather event in the Gulf of Mexico since the federal government started using satellites to track spills and leaks a decade ago.
In the two weeks after Ida, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration issued a total of 55 spill reports, including a spill near a fragile nature reserve. It underscores the frailty of the region’s offshore oil and gas infrastructure to intensifying storms fueled by climate change.
“That’s unprecedented, based on our 10 year record,” said Ellen Ramirez, who oversees NOAA’s round-the-clock satellite detection of marine pollution, including oil spills. “Ida has had the most significant impact to offshore drilling” since the program began, she said.
Using satellite imagery, NOAA typically reports about 250 to 300 spills a year in American waters, including the Atlantic, Pacific and the Gulf of Mexico, a pace of about 25 spills a month. In the two weeks before Ida, NOAA spotted just five potential oil slicks in the Gulf. The program, the National Environmental Satellite and Data Information Service, uses satellite technology to detect important but hard-to-see events, like methane leaks, signs of deforestation and others, that affect the climate and environment."
There are some important caveats. NOAA’s satellite tracking effort started years after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, which triggered a series of spills that ultimately released about 10 million gallons into the Gulf, the same amount of oil as the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster off of Alaska. It also doesn’t cover BP’s Deepwater Horizon blowout in 2010, which spewed more than 120 million gallons of oil, the biggest offshore oil spill in United States history. (At the time, NOAA did engage in an experimental effort to use satellite imagery to track the oil’s spread.)
NOAA cautions that there are still limits to using satellite technology to detect oil spills, and changes in wave patterns, or shadows cast by clouds, can sometimes look like slicks. With this technology, the agency cannot measure the amount of oil spilled. It produces the reports so the United States Coast Guard and others can mount a rapid response, scrutinizing the satellite imagery to differentiate between areas of thick oil that can be removed by skimming, and lighter oil sheens, which are generally too thin to recover.
In the days immediately following Hurricane Ida, The New York Times used satellite and aerial survey images, as well as ship tracking data, to report on a substantial spill near Port Fourchon, a main hub for Louisiana’s offshore oil and gas industry. A Houston-based oil and gas exploration company and the most recent leaseholder in the area, Talos Energy, initially led a cleanup effort at the site. Since then, the company has said that divers at the site discovered an abandoned pipeline, not owned by Talos, that could instead be the source of the leak.
Hurricane Ida dealt a particular blow, experts say, because of its intensity and its path. The storm made landfall at Port Fourchon, the service hub for the vast majority of offshore oil platforms in the Gulf of Mexico. The spills show how the mass of pipelines, platforms and wells in the area have become increasingly vulnerable to extreme weather linked to global warming.
In the days after the hurricane, satellite imagery showed at least 10 spills flowing from platforms and other fixed structures in the Gulf. These offshore platforms, some as tall as skyscrapers, hold the equipment to drill, produce, store and transport oil and gas, and are designed to withstand severe storms, but many are decades old. Offshore operators have said some of those platforms sustained significant structural damage from Ida.
As of last week, the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, which regulates the offshore oil and gas industry, said workers still hadn’t returned to 32 platforms. About 16 percent of the Gulf’s oil production, and 24 percent of its gas production, remains shut down.
On Aug. 30, even as the thick slicks spread their way across the water, the Biden administration moved to lease more than 80 million acres in the Gulf for new oil and gas production. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management expects those leases to produce up to 1.12 billion barrels of oil, and 4.4 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, over the next 50 years.
Much of the older oil and gas infrastructure has been abandoned. A report published earlier this year by the U.S. Government Accountability Office found that since the 1960s, federal regulators have allowed oil and gas producers in the Gulf to leave 18,000 miles of pipeline on the seafloor. Those pipelines, about 97 percent of the decommissioned ones in the area, are often abandoned without cleaning or burial. Federal data shows that approximately 47 percent of pipeline segments, and 75 percent of platforms, are inactive or abandoned.
“For years, hurricanes have caused these kinds of spills and damage to pipeline infrastructure, and I think to some extent that's inevitable,” said Frank Rusco, the federal accountability office’s director of natural resources and environment. “Old pipelines are going to break loose, get moved about, dragged across other things. And so it really is a hazardous situation out there.”
The spills caused by Hurricane Ida have brought more damage to a shoreline made fragile from decades of oil and gas drilling. One of the slicks was very near the East Timbalier Island National Wildlife Refuge, an ecologically-rich part of a barrier island chain that forms the first line of defense against vulnerable inner bays, as well as the hub of Port Fourchon.
“We won’t know the true ecological impact for a while,” said Scott Eustis, community science director at the New Orleans-based nonprofit, Healthy Gulf, who has long studied the effect of oil and gas drilling on Louisiana’s wetlands. “These islands were here to protect Louisiana. But instead, we’ve drilled wells and we’ve abandoned pipelines,” he said. “And they’re leaking.”
Louisiana has spent millions of dollars trying to restore the island, which is riddled with oil wells. Some scientists have said the island is too far gone to save.
Esias Johnson had been in and out of Rikers Island during his two years in New York. A captain and two correction officers have been suspended in connection with his death.
By Jan Ransom and Jonah E. Bromwich, Sept. 27, 2021
Jerome Johnson leans over his son’s casket during his funeral in Haverhill, Mass., on Saturday. Credit...M. Scott Brauer for The New York Times
When Esias Johnson moved to New York from his hometown in 2019, chasing dreams of musical stardom, his parents were terrified.
Mr. Johnson, then 21, had been diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome as a child and suffered from mental illness for much of his young life, failing to fit in and eventually getting into trouble with the law. His family feared that a city full of strangers who could not understand his struggles might swallow him.
But what happened was far worse than what they had imagined.
Almost as soon as he arrived in New York from north of Boston, Mr. Johnson found himself in trouble with the law again. And as his mental illness worsened, manifesting in increasingly frightening ways, Mr. Johnson was arrested repeatedly and taken, again and again, to Rikers Island.
In the two years after his arrival in New York, Mr. Johnson faced at least six criminal complaints, but was never convicted of a crime. Bouncing in and out of jail, he occasionally received perfunctory counseling and little else, according to court records and Mr. Johnson’s family.
But in August, when Mr. Johnson arrived at Rikers for the last time, the city’s notorious jail complex had descended into chaos. A month later, he was dead.
The last years of Mr. Johnson’s life reflect the criminal justice system’s long struggle to grapple effectively with mental illness. But his death is emblematic of a more recent problem: a cascading crisis at Rikers, where a severe staffing emergency has contributed to inhumane conditions, inadequate medical and mental health care and a collapse of the basic functions of the entire correctional system.
Last week, a federal monitor overseeing the jail asked a judge to intervene, while New York lawmakers asked President Biden to get involved.
The cause of Mr. Johnson’s death on Sept. 7 remains under investigation. He had spent the days before begging for medical attention — pleas that were ignored, according to the detainee who found him dead. Two correction officers and a captain have been suspended in connection with Mr. Johnson’s death.
His death was the 10th in the city’s jail system this year. Two more people in city custody have died since, making 2021 the deadliest year in New York City’s jails since 2015 and stoking skepticism about the city’s ability to protect the health and safety of the roughly 6,000 people incarcerated in its jails. Several of the deaths at Rikers have been ruled suicides; in other cases, like Mr. Johnson’s, the cause has not been determined.
Mr. Johnson was arrested in Queens in August when the police said he slapped a man’s backside before chasing him into a bank and, wielding a syringe, threatened to infect him with H.I.V. and hepatitis C.
The charges could eventually have led to bail, and to a short jail sentence or time in a mental health facility if he was convicted. But his last incarceration was different. In addition to the charges in New York, there was an active warrant for his arrest in New Jersey. He was ordered held at Rikers at a time when the jail was ill equipped to keep him safe.
Mr. Johnson’s death at age 24, his family and advocates for incarcerated people have said, was completely avoidable.
“Coming onto Rikers should not be a death sentence,” said his family’s lawyer, Jaime Santana.
He wanted to be ‘normal’
As a child, Esias Johnson “had a different outlook on life,” his father, Jerome Johnson, said in an interview. His brothers were drawn to sports, Mr. Johnson said, while Esias, whom the family called “Izzy,” preferred picking daisies.
He grew up in Haverhill, Mass., a small city 35 miles north of Boston; his mother worked as a nurse, and his father made a living as a truck driver.
The family was rooted in the church, and Esias, as a child, spent each morning looking on as his mother, Tracy Johnson, danced to worship music. Inspired, he found a passion for music too, captivated by pop stars who made their names before he was born: Michael Jackson, Cher, Prince and Whitney Houston.
His problems became evident early on. He slathered the bathroom in green gel and tried to bake cookies without turning the oven on, his mother said.
“It was really difficult,” Ms. Johnson said. “We couldn’t figure out what was going on.”
Eventually, the Johnsons learned he had Asperger’s syndrome, a neurological disorder on the autism spectrum, and mental health issues. He went to a specialized school, but by 11th grade was frustrated and threatened to seek emancipation if he could not attend the mainstream high school in town.
“‘I just want to be normal,’” Ms. Johnson recalled her son saying.
Around the same time, church officials learned that he was gay, his parents said. He was asked to step down from a youth leadership role, a decision, his parents say had profound consequences.
“It changed the direction of his life, it changed the way he felt about God and the people of God,” Mr. Johnson said. “He didn’t feel comfortable reaching out to people anymore. It took something very important from him.”
After Mr. Johnson graduated from high school, his parents said that he struggled to find his way. He landed in some trouble, accused of driving in a stolen vehicle and later of driving without a license, local news reports from the time show.
Soon, Mr. Johnson decided he was moving to New York to pursue a music career. At his parents’ encouragement, he enrolled in programs and counseling while there, they said.
In and out of jail
In New York, Mr. Johnson found himself on the wrong side of the law almost immediately, and during his three years in the city he was repeatedly accused of making violent threats.
After one arrest in 2019, when he was accused of threatening to bomb Marymount Manhattan College, his lawyer told the court he had “serious mental health issues.” He was arrested twice more before being sent to jail in early 2020, staying nearly a year before posting bail last November.
Johnson was one of many people living with mental illness who ended up at Rikers Island. According to a 2016 Mayor’s Management Report, more than 40 percent of the people held at Rikers had been diagnosed with a mental health condition,
His inability to get meaningful care or treatment was also typical. Rikers has had a history of mistreating and even abusing detainees with mental illness. And in recent months, as Rikers continued to spiral out of control, many incarcerated people have said they have missed appointments with mental health physicians because of a shortage in officer staffing, or have not had access to psychiatric medication.
After his earlier stints at Rikers, Ms. Johnson said her son started living at the Fairfield Inn in Queens, where a city-run program housed recently released people who were homeless. There, she said, he had access to social services for people with mental illness.
In March, he was accused of stealing a man’s cellphone, then threatening him with a syringe that he said would give him H.I.V. He was again sent to jail, and posted bail in the middle of May this year.
The following month, Mr. Johnson was accused of texting a New Jersey man to verify the man’s address, then adding, “I’ll kill everyone there.” A warrant was issued for his arrest.
Finally, in early August, Mr. Johnson was arrested for the last time, after slapping and chasing the man in Queens, according to a police report.
Ms. Johnson said she learned that her son had been jailed again when, realizing more than a week had gone by without a call from him, she checked the Department of Correction’s website and learned that he had been detained.
She said many of her son’s legal troubles stemmed from his relationships with the men he was seeing at the time. She said he had been rejected a lot.
“He wanted to be loved like he loved everybody else, but the world didn’t offer him that,” Mr. Johnson said of his son. “To the world he was weird and strange.”
When Mr. Johnson returned to Rikers Island in August, after bouncing between freedom and incarceration for the better part of two years, the jail was deep in a crisis that had been building since the beginning of the pandemic.
Covid-19 had drained the facility of able-bodied correction officers. Morale among those still working at the jails dropped, and as they were called upon to work double and even triple shifts, more and more officers began to call in sick, or simply failed to show up. Those who did come were stretched thin and unresponsive to problems in the jails, the federal monitor overseeing the jails found.
When Mr. Johnson was finally able to call his mother, he told her he had not been feeling well, and said that correction officers were not taking him to court, she said. Ms. Johnson said she had also tried to pay his $1 bail on the charges from Queens. But paying the nominal dollar bail would not have led to his release — Mr. Johnson was being held on the warrant in New Jersey, where he probably would have been taken only after his charges in New York were resolved.
Still, Ms. Johnson said, correction officers failed to take her son to a video hearing in mid-August. Her son told her he had missed three appointments.
“I don’t know why they’re not bringing me,” Mr. Johnson told his mother over the phone. “I should have been out of here by now.”
Correction officials disputed that account, and said Mr. Johnson’s only missed court date had been canceled by the court and rescheduled for the day after his death.
“Our thoughts and condolences remain with Mr. Johnson’s family, and we want to assure them that this was not a case of D.O.C. failing to bring their son to court,” said Jason Kersten, a department spokesman.
Allen Chey King, 51, a detainee who said he found Mr. Johnson unresponsive in the dorm they shared in a mental health unit, said Mr. Johnson had begged staff for medical attention in the days leading up to his death. Mr. Johnson had complained of insomnia and constipation, Mr. King said in a recent phone interview.
Mr. Santana, the family’s lawyer, said Mr. Johnson’s cries for help echoed out beyond his dorm.
By 9:45 a.m., Mr. Johnson was dead.
Tracy Johnson said she believed that her son would be alive if someone at the jail had listened to him.
“If you would have just helped, he would have been home right now,” Ms. Johnson said.
By Eric W. Sanderson, Sept. 28, 2021
Dr. Sanderson is a senior conservation ecologist with the Wildlife Conservation Society in New York and the author of “Mannahatta: A Natural History of New York City” and “Terra Nova: The New World After Oil, Cars and Suburbs.” He is working on an atlas and a geographical dictionary of the Indigenous landscape of New York City.https://www.nytimes.com/2021/09/28/opinion/hurricane-ida-new-york-city.html?action=click&module=Well&pgtype=Homepage§ion=Opinion
For more than 20 years, I have been studying the historical ecology of New York City and thinking about what it means for the city’s future, and I can tell you one thing: Water will go where water has always gone.
When Hurricane Sandy roared into New York in 2012, where did the sea surge? Into the salt marshes. They may not have looked like salt marshes at the time. They may have looked like Edgemere and Oakwood Beach and Red Hook, but these neighborhoods are marshes first, disguised with landfill and topped with buildings.
And so it was recently with the remnants of Hurricane Ida. It is heartbreaking and tragic that people died in flooded basements, and that so many lost so much property. Where were these flooded basements? Judging by the news reports, mainly dug into the old stream courses and freshwater wetlands of the city. Places such as the block of 153rd Street, surrounded by Kissena Park, in Queens. That’s Kissena Park, named after Kissena Creek, which up until the 1910s met the tidewaters of the Flushing River right about where 153rd Street is.
Or the flooding in Central Park? Those are the old wetlands that Frederick Law Olmsted tried to engineer out of existence in the 19th century, wetlands that provided slowing points for streams that rose on the Upper West Side and flowed southeast across the island to the East River.
Or the flash flood in the subway station at West 28th Street and Seventh Avenue? Right in the middle of a wetland clearly shown on 18th- century maps, the headwaters for The Old Wreck, a stream that fed Sunfish Pond, on the south side of Murray Hill, before reaching the sea at Kip’s Bay.
The city even has a map where the extreme flooding happens, compiled from 311 reports and official observations. It is for all intents and purposes a map of the old streams.
In the aftermath of Ida, politicians have taken up talking points focusing on poverty and the lack of affordable housing that forces some to live underground. Others argue that our infrastructure, writ large, is no longer up to the task of protecting us from climate change. These responses are perfectly valid, but they miss the point.
The losses are mainly the result of our inability to read the landscape where we live and conceive fully what it means to live there. We need to see the landscape in new, by which I mean old, terms.
The Lenape people who once inhabited the hills and valleys that we now call New York City knew better than to dig caves in stream beds. They noticed how salt marshes and barrier beaches worked together to protect the coastline and restore it after storms. They saw with their own eyes that soil absorbs water, and rock repels it.
Most importantly, they understood, as their descendants — contemporary Native Americans — often remind us, that we need to live on the land with humility and compassion, as if we will be here for a while. We can learn from the streams, forests and marshes what it means to be living in a particular place. And it is our job to put that knowledge into practice. It is our home.
We might think we have dominion of the land, but our power is nothing compared to the glaciers that shaped New York or the climate change that is taking shots now.
What to do? The truth of it is, some people are going to have to move.
By that I mean those who live in buildings constructed on former stream courses and wetlands, those who run a business or rent a basement in low-lying areas, and those whose homes and workplaces are in the path of flooding that will surely return.
Water demands a place to go. That means making room for streams and wetlands, beaches and salt marshes. It means solving human-caused problems with nature-based solutions. These include removing urban impediments to let streams flow once again, a process known as daylighting; restoring wetlands and planting trees. It also means using the collective power of our community — expressed through tax dollars — to help people move to safer places.
A report issued by the de Blasio administration on Monday titled “The New Normal” warned that climate change “poses a grave threat to our people and our city, and its costs will not be borne equally.” Among other things, the city needs to “reimagine our sewage and drainage system and rapidly increase green infrastructure,” the report said.
In Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx, for instance, the city is constructing a man-made brook to channel overflows from the park’s lake into the Harlem River rather than draining it through the sewer system. During Ida, that overflow reduced the sewer system’s capacity to handle storm drainage. The result: “parts of the Major Deegan Expressway flooded with multiple feet of water, ” according to the report.
This work is encouraging news. The city cannot absorb water indefinitely any more than it can absorb people without end. Right now, we let economics, precedence and luck decide who is safe and who risks losing it all.
Let’s let the streams run free.
The animals and one plant had been listed as endangered species. Their stories hold lessons about a growing global biodiversity crisis.
By Catrin Einhorn, Published Sept. 28, 2021, Updated Sept. 29, 2021
The ivory-billed woodpecker, which birders have been seeking in the bayous of Arkansas, is gone forever, according to federal officials. So is the Bachman’s warbler, a yellow-breasted songbird that once migrated between the Southeastern United States and Cuba. The song of the Kauai O’o, a Hawaiian forest bird, exists only on recordings. And there is no longer any hope for several types of freshwater mussels that once filtered streams and rivers from Georgia to Illinois.
In all, 22 animals and one plant should be declared extinct and removed from the endangered species list, federal wildlife officials announced on Wednesday.
The announcement could also offer a glimpse of the future. It comes amid a worsening global biodiversity crisis that threatens a million species with extinction, many within decades. Human activities like farming, logging, mining and damming take habitat from animals and pollute much of what’s left. People poach and overfish. Climate change adds new peril.
“Each of these 23 species represents a permanent loss to our nation’s natural heritage and to global biodiversity,” said Bridget Fahey, who oversees species classification for the Fish and Wildlife Service. “And it’s a sobering reminder that extinction is a consequence of human-caused environmental change.”
The extinctions include 11 birds, eight freshwater mussels, two fish, a bat and a plant. Many of them were likely extinct, or almost so, by the time the Endangered Species Act passed in 1973, officials and advocates said, so perhaps no amount of conservation would have been able to save them.
“The Endangered Species Act wasn’t passed in time to save most of these species,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center for Biological Diversity, a nonprofit group. “It’s a tragedy.”
Since the passage of the act, 54 species in the United States have been removed from the endangered list because their populations recovered, while another 48 have improved enough to move from endangered to threatened. So far, 11 listed species have been declared extinct.
A 60-day public comment period on the new batch of 23 begins on Thursday. Scientists and members of the public can provide information they would like the Fish and Wildlife Service to consider before making a final ruling.
Without conservation, scientists say, many more species would have disappeared. But with humans transforming the planet so drastically, they add, much more needs to be done.
“Biodiversity is the foundation of social and economic systems, yet we have not managed to solve the extinction crisis,” said Leah Gerber, an ecologist and director of the Center for Biodiversity Outcomes at Arizona State University.
Next month, talks will ramp up on a new global biodiversity agreement. One proposal that has gained traction recently is a plan, known as 30x30, to protect at least 30 percent of Earth’s land and oceans by 2030.
Scientists do not declare extinctions lightly. It often takes decades of fruitless searching. About half of the species in this group were already considered extinct by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, the global authority on the status of animals and plants. The Fish and Wildlife Service moved slower in part because it is working through a backlog, officials said, and tends to prioritize providing protection for species that need it over removing protection for those that don’t.
Many of the final confirmed sightings were in the 1980s, though one Hawaiian bird was last documented in 1899 and another in 2004.
No animal in the batch has been sought more passionately than the ivory-bill, the largest woodpecker in the United States. Once inhabiting old growth forests and swamps of the Southeast, the birds declined as European settlers and their descendants cleared forests and hunted them. The last confirmed sighting was in Louisiana in 1944.
But in 2004, a kayaker named Gene Sparling set off a flurry of searching when he saw a woodpecker that looked like an ivory-bill in an Arkansas swamp. Days after hearing about it, two experienced birders, Tim Gallagher and Bobby Harrison, flew in to join him on a search. On Day 2, paddling in their kayaks, they were getting ready to stop for lunch when suddenly a big bird flew right in front of them. “Tim and I both yelled ‘Ivory-bill!’ at the same time,” Mr. Harrison recalled.
In doing so, they scared the bird away.
But the men are adamant that they got a crystal-clear look at the distinctive wing markings that distinguish an ivory-bill from its most similar relative, the pileated woodpecker. “It was unmistakable,” Mr. Gallagher said.
A host of Cornell University ornithologists, several more searches, a few reported sightings and a blurry video later, a 2005 paper in the journal Science declared “Ivory-billed Woodpecker (Campephilus principalis) Persists in Continental North America.”
Controversy ensued. Some experts argued that the video was of pileated woodpeckers. Repeated attempts by state and federal wildlife agencies to find the bird have been unsuccessful, and many experts have concluded that it is extinct.
When Amy Trahan, a biologist with the Fish and Wildlife Service, completed the most recent species assessment for the woodpecker, she said, she had to make her recommendation based on the best available science. At the end of the report, she checked a line next to the words “delist based on extinction.”
“That was probably one of the hardest things I’ve done in my career,” she said. “I literally cried.”
Islands, where wildlife evolved in isolation, have been especially hit hard by extinctions caused by humans introducing foreign species into the ecosystem, and 11 of the species in the delisting proposal are from Hawaii and Guam. Pigs, goats and deer destroy forest habitat. Rats, mongoose and brown tree snakes prey on native birds and bats. Mosquitoes, which did not exist on Hawaii until they arrived on ships in the 1800s, kill birds by infecting them with avian malaria.
Hawaii was once home to more than 50 species of forest birds known as honeycreepers, some of them brightly colored with long, curved beaks used to drink nectar from flowers. Taking into account the proposed extinctions in this batch, only 17 species are left.
Most of the remaining species are now under heavier siege. Birds that lived higher in the mountains were once safe from avian malaria because it was too cold for mosquitoes. But because of climate change, the mosquitoes have spread higher.
“We’re seeing very dramatic population declines associated with that increase in mosquitoes that’s a direct result of climate change,” said Michelle Bogardus, the deputy field supervisor for the Pacific Islands Fish and Wildlife Office.
Only a couple of species have shown resistance to avian malaria, she said, so most are likely to face extinction unless mosquitoes can be controlled over the whole landscape.
Freshwater mussels are among the most imperiled groups in North America, but scientists don’t know enough about the eight species on the list to say for sure why they disappeared. The extinctions are likely connected to the reservoirs that humans built over the last 100 years, federal biologists said, essentially turning the mussels’ rivers into lakes.
Did the change in habitat affect some aspect of their carefully choreographed life cycle? Were the filter feeders also injured by sediment or pollution in the water?
Freshwater mussels rely on adaptations developed over untold years of evolution. Females lure in fish with an appendage that looks like a minnow, crayfish, snail, insect or worm, depending on the species. The mussels then squirt out their larvae, which attach to the fish, forcing it to shelter and ultimately distribute them.
Perhaps the mussels went extinct because their host fish moved or disappeared itself.
“I don’t think we fully understand what we lost,” said Tyler Hern, a biologist with the Fish and Wildlife Service whose work includes freshwater mussel recovery. “These mussels had secrets that we’ll never know.”
The mussels proposed for extinction are the flat pigtoe, green-blossom pearly mussel, Southern acornshell, stirrupshell, tubercled-blossom pearly mussel, turgid-blossom pearly mussel, upland combshell and the yellow-blossom pearly mussel.
The Hawaiian birds are the Kauai akialoa, Kauai nukupuu, Kauai O’o, large Kauai thrush, Maui akepa, Maui nukupuʻu, Molokai creeper and the poʻouli.
The only plant on the list is also from Hawaii, Phyllostegia glabra var. lanaiensis.
From Guam, there is the bridled white-eye bird and the Little Mariana fruit bat. From Texas, there is the San Marcos gambusia fish. From Ohio, the Scioto madtom fish.
The Bachman’s warbler and ivory-billed woodpecker were found in the Southeast.
Wayne Couzens, a British police officer who pleaded guilty to the murder of Sarah Everard, used the pretense of Covid regulations to kidnap the 33-year-old as she was walking home.
By Megan Specia, Sept. 29, 2021
Crowds gathered in London’s Parliament Square in March calling for an end to violence against women and girls after the death of Ms. Everard. Credit...Mary Turner for The New York Times
LONDON — A police officer who pleaded guilty to murdering Sarah Everard in London earlier this year used the false pretense that she was violating Covid-19 regulations to abduct her before he raped and killed her, a prosecutor told a London courtroom on Wednesday.
Her abduction and murder in March galvanized a national movement demanding better protections for women, but the harrowing details of how the officer, Wayne Couzens, used his official police credentials, equipment and training to carry out the crime were detailed publicly for the first time during his sentencing hearing.
The prosecution called Mr. Couzens’ actions an attack of “deception, kidnap, rape, strangulation, fire.”
When Ms. Everard was abducted on March 3, Britain was in the midst of a national lockdown because of the coronavirus pandemic. People’s movements were restricted and the regulations were often enforced by the local police.
Tom Little, a prosecutor, described in court how Mr. Couzens confronted Ms. Everard in South London as she walked home from a friend’s house and conducted “a false arrest” for breaching lockdown guidelines, to get Ms. Everard into his car.
Mr. Couzens, who was a diplomatic protection officer with the Metropolitan Police, used his warrant card — a type of police identification card — before restraining her with handcuffs and then driving away, according to the prosecutor.
Her remains were discovered seven days later in wooded area near Ashford in Kent, roughly 60 miles from London.
Mr. Couzens had worked on Covid patrols a few months earlier, the prosecutor told the court, giving him an understanding of the protocols regarding potential lockdown breaches.
A witness passing by in a vehicle saw what was happening and noted that it looked abnormal, but thought it was just a police officer detaining a woman “who had done something wrong,” the prosecutor told the court.
Footage from surveillance cameras showed that Ms. Everard complied with Mr. Couzens’ demand to get into the car, as she most likely believed she was being arrested.
Rights groups reacted with outrage to the new information.
The Women’s Equality Party said the abduction in this manner was “a disgusting abuse of power,” and called for an independent inquiry into sexism in the Metropolitan Police force and for violence against women and girls to be treated as a national threat.
“Women cannot be expected to trust the police when we have to live with the fear of this,” the party said in a statement. “Misogyny is steeped in our institutions.”
Many have been critical of the failure by the police to investigate allegations of other sexual offenses by Mr. Couzens before the murder of Ms. Everard, including reports that he exposed himself in public days before the attack.
On Wednesday, London’s Metropolitan Police posted a statement ahead of the sentencing hearing acknowledging that Mr. Couzens’ “actions raise many concerns.
“We are sickened, angered and devastated by this man’s crimes which betray everything we stand for,” the police said in a statement.
Ms. Everard was reported missing by her boyfriend the day after being abducted, when she failed to return home, and soon a missing persons poster spread on social media.
The urgency over her disappearance soon turned to grief and then anger after her body was found.
The crime set off a national movement as women shared their own stories of harassment on the streets and accounts of sexual violence, calling for action to address the issue of women’s safety.
It spurred street protests in the midst of the lockdown, with demonstrators calling for systemic changes to the way the police handle crimes against women.
The fact that Mr. Couzens was a police officer only intensified the public anger over Ms. Everard’s death. He could face up to life in prison for his crimes.
In July, after Ms. Everard’s murder and other instances of fatal violence against women, the British government announced a new strategy to tackle this type of violence. The measures included proposed harsher penalties for offenders and increased policing of public spaces.
After Ms. Everard’s death and subsequent protests against policing, Priti Patel, the home secretary, commissioned a report from an independent watchdog group to review the policing response to violence against women and girls.
The report, released this month, called for a “radical change of approach across the whole system involving the police, criminal justice system, local authorities, health and education.”
By Chris Ladd, September 26, 2021https://www.politicalorphans.com/something-weird-is-happening-on-facebook/
Aw, how funny! Click, share.
This, however is a little different:
That first post generated 21 comments and 59 shares. The second one on the same hyper-twee recipe page generated 1.4 million comments and 35,000 shares. Yes, a question-post invites more engagement than a simple comment, but there’s something else at work here. We’re seeing a rash of posts like this soliciting a kind of engagement that would reveal valuable personal insights. In many cases they’re coming from pages purporting to be “blogs” which in fact are nodes in an “affiliate network.”
These affiliate networks are the new Tupperware or LuLaRoe, where housewives or hobbyists sell clicks instead of Amway. The humans in this network provide a veneer of authenticity. Network owners give them access to troves of thin content, usually recipes or vapid “lifestyle” tips, while cramming their pages to the gills with ads. Bloggers get a cut of the ad revenue, but here’s where it gets interesting. They aren’t doing a lot of selling. These social media and blog ads don’t appear to generate much revenue. Rarely are the blogs specifically selling anything on any scale. For that matter, they rarely write much either. This multi-billion dollar industry has to be getting revenue somewhere else.
It’s tough to tell where the money’s coming from because no one in this business would respond to inquiries, but there’s a likely answer. In the social media industry, data is the product. Facebook’s APIs allow me to pull some aggregate data but other methods let me scrape the profiles of people who interact with my posts. I can then collect and analyze their responses to my posts. If I have access to dozens or even hundreds of “affiliated” pages the potential reach becomes vast. Someone appears to be pouring enormous energy and effort into a data collection project aimed at building personality profiles from social media interaction…again. This has been tried before, most prominently by Cambridge Analytica back in 2016.
Cambridge Analytica was a short-lived political consulting firm famous for their role in Russian meddling in the US & British 2016 Elections. CA used data gathered in violation of Facebook’s terms of service to build complex voter profiles. They used that data to target political messages, often containing phony information, to users based on their “psychographic” profile. Cambridge helped the Trump campaign target misleading messages based on material stolen in the Russian hack of Democratic National Committee servers toward voters most likely to believe this fake news.
To build these profiles, CA promoted an online personality quiz through an app that required a Facebook login. They used that login to steal data via Facebook’s API which they tied to the respondents’ answers. Getting only 270,000 responses to their personality test, they were able to assemble profiles on a purported 87m+ social media accounts.
Facebook has shut down that particular avenue of data harvesting. There are disputes about whether CA’s voter profiles even worked. However, the dream of building psychological profiles of voters from patterns of social media engagement remains alive. Such an engine could power potent networks of political disinformation. Major companies have long had far more powerful targeting tools at their disposal, but those tools are too expensive for politicians and aren’t aimed squarely at the traits that drive political engagement. Political operatives need tools that are cheap and dirty. That brings us back to our affiliate networks.
Let’s take a look at another pair of posts, this time exactly the same meme on the same page, posted a couple of weeks apart.
Same post, with the same meme, on the same page, a couple of weeks apart produces results that differ by orders of magnitude. It could be that the second one is just newer, but based on the second post’s engagement trajectory that doesn’t seem to explain the difference. Scrolling through other memes on the page another pattern emerges. The difference appears to be the “with” accounts, other social media entities “tagged” to assist with promotion.
What are those accounts and why do they matter? It isn’t clear and there’s no definite pattern. A lot them are, for lack of a better term, squirrelly. They seem to be “promoter accounts,” generating dozens of posts of day consisting mostly of spam. Some are offshore. A few appear to be ordinary people. Why these tagged accounts deliver such huge impact is unclear, but the results are impressive. How this works is murky, but it’s clear that someone has found a way to gain absolutely stellar reach for these apparent spam posts. What they have in common is help from affiliate networks.
If you spend any time on Facebook you’ve probably noticed a blizzard of question memes coming from clickbait accounts. You’ve likely either commented on them yourself or seen comments from close friends. Many of these posts look like they’re probing for answers to security/verification questions, but the ugly reality is that your passwords are nearly worthless. Chances are your passwords are already circulating on the dark web, sold in batches of millions for as little as a few thousand dollars. Unless you hold the password to something wildly valuable, like major corporate or government assets, nobody cares except kids playing around.
By contrast, what could I learn about someone by knowing their answers to these questions?
"What was your first car?" "How old were you when you got your first job?" "First Celebrity Crush?" "What do your grandchildren call you?"
Going a little further, there’s a tranche of questions circulating that look more clearly political:
How old are you? Where do you live? What are your entertainment tastes and how far do you live from your hometown? Properly scrubbed, these answers could probably predict your ’16 and ’20 Election preferences with 90%+ accuracy. Sure, that first post won’t accurately predict your birth year, but that’s the point. Look at the comments (running into hundreds of thousands) and you’ll see people simply posting that data, plus colorful details. Thanks to advances in sentiment analysis and the declining cost of computation power, I can get remarkable insights from masses of text-based data.
What data do these posts produce? For each account that interacts with these posts, page administrators can use Facebook Insights to query aggregate information on post reach and demographics, but that’s for rookies. With a little python expertise responses on my page can be scraped directly from Facebook and stored for analysis. There are legitimate paid services that will do this, but this would likely be an in-house capability for social media affiliate networks. Janie in Memphis with her mommy blog or Steve in Phoenix with his RV musings might enjoy a little extra money each month from their social media engagement. Meanwhile the larger network with administrator access to their accounts is collecting the real gold in the form of individual user data.
Without more research, or perhaps even a subpoena, it’s impossible to nail down exactly what’s happening here, but there are some clear precedents. If these affiliate networks aren’t being used to improve on CA’s voter profiling project it would be a surprise.
Don’t take candy from strangers and don’t feed your personal information to bots. If that mommy blog is jammed with ads and promotions, leave immediately. For context, compare the layout and content on an authentic blog like Scary Mommy with the spam, ads, and brain-numbing botspeak you’ll encounter on a MediaVine blog like the A Typical Mom. The difference is easy to spot.
Watch this space. There’s a pretty good chance that the big data scandal of the 2024 Election is unfolding on your Facebook feed right now.
Ms. Everard’s killing this year inspired a national call to action in Britain to address violence against women. The court heard this week how Wayne Couzens used his police ID and handcuffs in abducting her.
By Megan Specia, Sept. 30, 2021https://www.nytimes.com/2021/09/30/world/europe/sarah-everard-wayne-couzens-sentencing.html
LONDON — The police officer who abducted, raped and murdered Sarah Everard — a case that prompted a wave of criticism of the police and calls to reform the way officers handle violence against women — was sentenced on Thursday to life in prison by Britain’s top criminal court.
The sentence was announced a day after prosecutors detailed how the officer, Wayne Couzens, abused his authority and, under the guise of the coronavirus restrictions imposed during a national lockdown in March, deceived Ms. Everard into thinking that she was under arrest.
Judge Adrian Bruce Fulford, in explaining why Mr. Couzens would not be eligible for parole, said that he had “irretrievably damaged the lives of Sarah Everard’s family and friends” and “eroded the confidence that the public are entitled to have to the police force in England and Wales.”
The judge said that the “misuse of a police officer’s role” — he used his official police credentials, equipment and training to carry out the crime, according to prosecutors — justified the steepest possible sentence.
The degree of preparation and length of time over which Mr. Couzens planned his attack, as well as the brutality he demonstrated, also factored into the judgment, he said.
Judges in Britain are usually obligated to give life sentences to people convicted of murder, but those sentenced to life in prison rarely serve out the entire term behind bars.
There is, however, an exception for the most serious murder cases, when a judge passes a “whole life order,” as was the case for Mr. Couzens. In this situation, the offender must remain in prison for life without any possibility of early release.
Tom Little, a prosecutor, detailed the case against Mr. Couzens in London’s central criminal court this week, revealing new and harrowing details about the March killing of Ms. Everard, a 33-year-old whose death inspired national calls for better protections for women. Those present, including Ms. Everard’s family, heard how Mr. Couzens went “hunting for a lone young female to kidnap and rape.”
Mr. Couzens then confronted Ms. Everard as she walked home from a friend’s house and conducted “a false arrest” to get her into his car, the prosecutor said.
Mr. Couzens, who was a diplomatic protection officer with the Metropolitan Police, presented a police identity card to Ms. Everard and handcuffed her before driving her out of the city, raping her and eventually killing her and setting her body on fire, Mr. Little said.
Her remains were discovered seven days later in a wooded area in Kent, nearly 80 miles from London. Justice Fulford reflected on Ms. Everard’s likely state of mind during the journey and said what she had to endure was “as bleak and agonizing as it is possible to imagine.”
When Mr. Couzens’ defense lawyer spoke on behalf of his client on Thursday, he said his client did not dispute any of the facts outlined by the prosecution but argued against the possibility of a whole life sentence, citing his guilty plea among other factors.
The details of Mr. Couzens calculated attack and his abuse of power as a police officer have shocked rights activists and lawmakers who have pushed for an overhaul of the approach to policing violence against women.
On Wednesday, before the sentencing hearing began, the Metropolitan Police in a statement acknowledged that Mr. Couzens’ “actions raise many concerns.”
The Metropolitan Police Federation, a staff association representing London’s police, said in a statement: “Police officers in London are totally disgusted and sickened that what was a serving colleague could have committed such a heinous crime.”
After Ms. Everard’s death, the government commissioned a report from an independent watchdog group to review the police response to violence against women and girls in England and Wales. The report, released this month, called for radical changes across the whole system in approaching these cases.
Zoë Billingham, an inspector at Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services, the watchdog group, told the BBC Woman’s Hour on Thursday that Mr. Couzens’ actions had “struck a hammer blow to the very heart of police legitimacy.”
“We cannot dismiss Wayne Couzens as a one-off, as a rarity, as an aberration,” she told the BBC. “We must see every single police force in England and Wales now stepping forward to tell its communities precisely what it is doing to ensure women are safe.”