To: U.S. Senate, U.S. House of Representatives
Sign Petition at:
Rashid just called with the news that he has been moved back to Virginia. His property is already there, and he will get to claim the most important items tomorrow. He is at a "medium security" level and is in general population. Basically, good news.
He asked me to convey his appreciation to everyone who wrote or called in his support during the time he was in Ohio.
His new address is:
Kevin Rashid Johnson #1007485
Nottoway Correctional Center
2892 Schutt Road
Burkeville, VA 23922
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:
Mumia Abu Jamal Appeal Denied!
We regret to share with you some alarming news on the continued case of Political Prisoner Mumia Abu Jamal
PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio)—The Pennsylvania Superior Court has challenged Mumia Abu-Jamal’s latest effort for an overturned conviction and new trial—nearly 40 years after he was convicted of killing Philadelphia Police Officer Daniel Faulkner.
The high court said Abu-Jamal’s appeal was untimely, adding that the lower court shouldn’t have reinstated any part of his appeal because it lacked jurisdiction.
This fifth appeal attempt—filed in 2016—was based on a federal ruling involving former Philadelphia District Attorney Ron Castille, who later became a state Supreme Court justice and ruled on a death penalty appeal. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Castille had an “unconstitutional risk of bias” as the district attorney.
ABU-JAMAL’S ATTORNEYS ARGUED TO A PHILADELPHIA JUDGE IN 2018 THAT CASTILLE WAS ALSO THE DISTRICT ATTORNEY WHEN ABU-JAMAL WAS CONVICTED, AND A STATE SUPREME COURT JUDGE WHEN HE APPEALED.
And, they pointed to a letter Castille penned to the governor in 1990, urging the death penalty be used to send a “clear and dramatic message to all police killers that the death penalty in Pennsylvania actually means something.”
The Pennsylvania Superior Court concluded that “the 1990 letter cannot create a reasonable inference that Justice Castille had a personal interest in the outcome of the litigation,” court documents say. “There is no evidence that Castille had ever personally participated in the prosecution of Abu-Jamal.
“The 1990 letter is not evidence of prior prosecutorial participation. It is evidence that while acting as an advocate, District Attorney Castille took a policy position to advance completion of the appellate process for convicted murderers: ‘I very strongly urge you immediately to issue death warrants in each and every one of these cases. Only such action by you will cause these cases to move forward in a legally appropriate manner.’ He was not arguing that the law should be changed or should be ignored. Rather, he simply took a position to facilitate collateral review of death sentences which was subscribed to by many prosecutors at the time.” But, the state Superior Court noted, Castille didn’t list Abu-Jamal, and they say Abu-Jamal didn’t file a new petition, using the letter as an argument, in time.
“Further,” the decision reads, “the 1990 letter was dated June 15th. At that time, Abu-Jamal’s direct appeal was still pending before the Supreme Court of the United States. … As such, Abu-Jamal was not even in the class of litigants that District Attorney Castille was referencing in the letter. The 1990 letter therefore cannot create a reasonable inference that Justice Castille was personally biased against Abu-Jamal.”
Pa. Supreme Court denies widow’s appeal to remove Philly DA from Abu-Jamal case
Abu Jamal was convicted by a jury of first-degree murder of Faulkner in 1982. Over the past four decades, five of his appeals have been quashed.
In 1989, the state’s highest court affirmed Abu-Jamal’s death penalty conviction, and in 2012, he was re-sentenced to life in prison.
Abu-Jamal, 66, remains in prison. He can appeal to the state Supreme Court, or he can file a new appeal.
KYW Newsradio reached out to Abu-Jamal’s attorneys for comment. They shared this statement in full:
“Today, the Superior Court concluded that it lacked jurisdiction to consider issues raised by Mr. Abu-Jamal in prior appeals. Two years ago, the Court of Common Pleas ordered reconsideration of these appeals finding evidence of an appearance of judicial bias when the appeals were first decided. We are disappointed in the Superior Court’s decision and are considering our next steps.
“While this case was pending in the Superior Court, the Commonwealth revealed, for the first time, previously undisclosed evidence related to Mr. Abu-Jamal’s case. That evidence includes a letter indicating that the Commonwealth promised its principal witness against Mr. Abu-Jamal money in connection with his testimony. In today’s decision, the Superior Court made clear that it was not adjudicating the issues raised by this new evidence. This new evidence is critical to any fair determination of the issues raised in this case, and we look forward to presenting it in court.”
Questions and comments may be sent to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Sign our petition urging President Biden to grant clemency to Leonard Peltier.
Address: 116 W. Osborne Ave. Tampa, Florida 33603
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
The military initially defended the strike, which killed 10 civilians including seven children, but ultimately called it a tragic mistake.
By Eric Schmitt, Dec. 13, 2021https://www.nytimes.com/2021/12/13/us/politics/afghanistan-drone-strike.html
WASHINGTON — None of the military personnel involved in a botched drone strike in Kabul, Afghanistan, that killed 10 civilians will face any kind of punishment, the Pentagon said on Monday.
The Pentagon acknowledged in September that the last U.S. drone strike before American troops withdrew from Afghanistan the previous month was a tragic mistake that killed the civilians, including seven children, after initially saying it had been necessary to prevent an Islamic State attack on troops. A subsequent high-level investigation into the episode found no violations of law but stopped short of fully exonerating those involved, saying such decisions should be left up to commanders.
Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III, who had left the final word on any administrative action, such as reprimands or demotions, to two senior commanders, approved their recommendation not to punish anyone. The two officers, Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr., the head of the military’s Central Command, and Gen. Richard D. Clarke, the head of the Special Operations Command, found no grounds for penalizing any of the military personnel involved in the strike, said John F. Kirby, the Pentagon’s chief spokesman.
“What we saw here was a breakdown in process, and execution in procedural events, not the result of negligence, not the result of misconduct, not the result of poor leadership,” Mr. Kirby told reporters.
“So I do not anticipate there being issues of personal accountability to be had with respect to the Aug. 29 airstrike,” Mr. Kirby said.
The Pentagon had not acknowledged the mistaken strike until a week after a Times investigation of video evidence challenged assertions by the military that it had struck a vehicle carrying explosives meant for Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul.
In two decades of war against shadowy enemies like Al Qaeda and the Islamic State, the U.S. military has killed hundreds, if not thousands, of civilians by accident in war zones like Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and Somalia. And while the military from time to time accepts responsibility for an errant airstrike or a ground raid that harms civilians, rarely does it hold specific people accountable.
The most prominent recent exception to this trend was in 2016, when the Pentagon disciplined at least a dozen military personnel for their roles in an airstrike in October 2015 on a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan, that killed 42 people. But none faced criminal charges.
Critics of the Kabul strike pointed to the incongruity of acknowledging the mistake but not finding anyone accountable for wrongdoing.
“This decision is shocking,” said Steven Kwon, the founder and president of Nutrition & Education International, the California-based aid organization that employed Zemari Ahmadi, the driver of a white Toyota sedan that was struck by the American drone. “How can our military wrongly take the lives of 10 precious Afghan people and hold no one accountable in any way?”
Public scrutiny into military strikes against adversaries like the Islamic State and Al Qaeda that also killed civilians is intensifying. Mr. Austin last month ordered a new high-level investigation into a U.S. airstrike in Syria in 2019 that killed dozens of women and children, and that military officials had tried to conceal.
On Sunday, an investigation by The Times revealed that the kinds of deaths in the Syrian strike were not isolated. The Times found that a top-secret American strike cell launched tens of thousands of bombs and missiles against the Islamic State in Syria, but in the process of pounding a vicious foe, the commandos sidestepped safeguards and repeatedly killed civilians.
The higher-level inquiry into the Kabul strike by the Air Force’s inspector general, Lt. Gen. Sami D. Said, blamed a series of erroneous assumptions, made over the course of eight hours as U.S. officials tracked a white Toyota Corolla through the Afghan capital, for causing what he called “confirmation bias,” leading to the attack.
General Said, in releasing his findings last month, found no criminal wrongdoing, but he said any other errors warranting disciplinary action would be up to senior commanders. “You should not perceive the fact that I didn’t call any individual out with accountability,” General Said told reporters. “That just does not mean that the chain of command won’t.” But it did not.
The general’s investigation made several recommendations for fixing the process through which strikes are ordered, including new measures to cut down the risk of confirmation bias and reviewing the prestrike procedures used to assess the presence of civilians. Pentagon officials say they are incorporating those measures into a broader strategy to prevent civilian harm on the battlefield.
Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, initially called the Kabul drone attack a “righteous strike,” but almost everything senior defense officials asserted in the hours, days and weeks after it turned out to be false. The explosives the military claimed were loaded in the trunk of a white sedan struck by the drone’s Hellfire missile were probably water bottles. A secondary explosion in the courtyard in the densely populated Kabul neighborhood where the attack took place was probably a propane or gas tank, military officials said.
Mr. Ahmadi, the driver of the white sedan that was struck by the American drone, had no ties to the Islamic State, officials said.
General McKenzie, the head of the Central Command, said in a news conference in September that the strike was carried out “in the profound belief” that the Islamic State was about to launch another attack on the airport. Three days earlier, a suicide bomber at the Kabul airport killed about 170 civilians and 13 U.S. troops.
Since then, the Pentagon has offered unspecified condolence payments to the family of those killed in the drone strike. The Pentagon has also said it is working with the State Department to help surviving members of the family relocate to the United States, but negotiations appear to have bogged down in recent weeks.
“I’ve been beseeching the U.S. government to evacuate directly impacted family members and N.E.I. employees for months because their security situation is so dire,” Mr. Kwon said, referring to employees of Nutrition & Education International, where Mr. Ahmadi worked.
Mr. Kirby said on Monday that Mr. Austin wanted to resolve the situation “as soon as possible.”
Top Defense Department officials were acting quickly “to get the identifying information that we need to help move family members out of Afghanistan as expeditiously as we can, and, of course, to better and safely affect the ex gratia payments,” Mr. Kirby said.
Congress has authorized the Pentagon to pay up to $3 million a year to compensate for property damage, personal injury or deaths related to the actions of U.S. armed forces, as well as for “hero payments” to the family members of local allied forces, such as Afghan or Iraqi troops fighting Al Qaeda or ISIS.
Condolence payments for deaths caused by the U.S. military have varied widely in recent years. In the 2019 fiscal year, for instance, the Pentagon offered 71 such payments — ranging from $131 to $35,000 — in Afghanistan and Iraq.
In the most recent example of one of these payments, the Pentagon has acknowledged that the military in Afghanistan paid $5,000 this year to a family there whose child was killed in an airstrike in January.
The Defense Department had notified Congress of this payment related to a civilian casualty but had not previously disclosed details of the strike.
In response to questions from The Times, Capt. Bill Urban, a spokesman for the Central Command, gave this account of what happened:
On Jan. 8, Taliban forces attacked an Afghan security forces checkpoint in the Shindand district, near Herat. After Afghan troops requested American help, a U.S. drone identified five Taliban fighters armed with small arms and rocket-propelled grenades. Two of the fighters broke away, repositioned and fired grenades at checkpoint.
American troops ordered a strike against the Taliban firing the grenades. The drone operator scanned the target area, and after determining it was free of civilians, launched the strike against the Taliban fighters.
However, five seconds before the weapon hit the fighters, the drone operator saw a child approaching the target. Within two seconds, the drone operator tried to abort the strike and veer the weapon away. That failed, and the potential civilian casualty was reported immediately.
An investigation began on Jan. 9 and confirmed that while a child had been killed in the airstrike, the decision to conduct it was made properly, in accordance with the existing rules of engagement.
“We deeply regret the loss of innocent life associated with this strike and continue to strive to avoid such loss in the future,” Captain Urban said in a response to questions from The Times about the strike.
The guilty plea is likely to lengthen the imprisonment of Mr. Chauvin, a former Minneapolis police officer who is already serving a prison sentence of 22 and a half years for murder.
By Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, Dec. 15, 2021https://www.nytimes.com/2021/12/15/us/derek-chauvin-civil-rights-guilty-plea.html
ST. PAUL, Minn. — Derek Chauvin pleaded guilty on Wednesday to a federal charge that he used his position as a Minneapolis police officer to violate George Floyd’s constitutional rights, a move expected to extend Mr. Chauvin’s time in prison beyond a decades-long sentence for murdering Mr. Floyd.
Mr. Chauvin, 45, pleaded guilty in the U.S. courthouse in St. Paul, an appearance that was most likely among the longest periods he has spent outside a prison cell since a jury found him guilty of second-degree murder in April. Since then, he has been held in solitary confinement in Minnesota’s only maximum-security prison, where he is allowed out of his 10-foot by 10-foot cell for one hour a day.
A federal prosecutor said that as part of a plea agreement reached with Mr. Chauvin, prosecutors would ask a judge to sentence him to 25 years in prison, a term that would be served in federal prison. The sentence would run concurrent to the state sentence of 22 and a half years for murder, meaning the guilty plea on Wednesday would add about two and a half years to his sentence. Mr. Chauvin appeared in court wearing an orange jumpsuit and, seated next to his lawyer, answered a judge’s questions about whether he understood the terms of the agreement.
Asked how he wanted to plead, Mr. Chauvin replied, “At this time, guilty, your honor.”
When a judge sentenced Mr. Chauvin to prison for murder in June, Mr. Chauvin appeared to refer to a potential plea deal with federal prosecutors during his condolences to Mr. Floyd’s family, saying that he hoped future events would give the family “some peace of mind.”
In pleading guilty to the federal charge, Mr. Chauvin, who is white, admitted he had violated the constitutional rights of Mr. Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man, to be free from unreasonable seizures, which include unreasonable force from a police officer. Mr. Chauvin had knelt on Mr. Floyd’s neck for nine and a half minutes in May 2020 as a handcuffed Mr. Floyd lay face down on a South Minneapolis street corner.
Mr. Chauvin’s guilty plea will most likely add to the time he serves in prison. A judge will ultimately decide how much more time he spends in prison. Many legal experts said the federal government’s case was strong, and a conviction at trial could have resulted in a life sentence. Mr. Chauvin may now be able to complete his sentence in a federal prison, which is generally considered to be safer and could separate Mr. Chauvin from prisoners he may have arrested.
The plea will also spare Mr. Chauvin, Mr. Floyd’s family and Minneapolis residents from the specter of an additional trial, though there are still several more legal proceedings related to Mr. Floyd’s death.
Mr. Floyd was a grandfather, a former rapper and a security guard who had lost his job at a nightclub when it closed at the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic. The harrowing footage of him gasping for air beneath an impassive Mr. Chauvin ignited protests in cities around the world, and led to the firing and arrest of Mr. Chauvin and three other officers at the scene.
Federal prosecutors have charged the three other officers — Thomas Lane, J. Alexander Kueng and Tou Thao — with violating Mr. Floyd’s civil rights in a case that is expected to go to trial in January.
Mr. Chauvin’s guilty plea may be welcome news to those officers, who had sought to remove Mr. Chauvin from their joint trial because they feared he would prejudice the jury. Those officers also face state charges that they aided and abetted both second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter after responding to a 911 call from a convenience store clerk who said that Mr. Floyd had used a fake $20 bill to buy cigarettes.
By Jessica Grose, December 15, 2021https://www.nytimes.com/2021/12/15/opinion/roe-miscarriage-health.html?action=click&module=Well&pgtype=Homepage§ion=Guest%20Essays
When you have your first bad sonogram, you fall into an abyss of maternity care. If you haven’t experienced it, you might not know the contours of this purgatory, but I can tell you what it’s like. Almost exactly seven years ago, the face of my obstetrician fell while performing an ultrasound for a very wanted pregnancy, and our collective mood shifted in an instant from buoyant to somber.
I learned that day that it appeared that my pregnancy was not progressing, because my doctor couldn’t find a heartbeat. But he couldn’t be certain; my period was quite irregular, and it was possible that he misdated the pregnancy and that it was still viable. So I had to wait. One week, then two. Dragging myself into the radiologist’s office every few days to see if there was a heartbeat while attempting to work and parent my then-2-year-old and desperately trying not to cry most of my waking moments.
When my doctors were finally certain that the pregnancy would not go forward, I was given three options: I could continue to wait and see if my body would miscarry on its own without intervention, I could take medication and end the pregnancy at home, or I could have a surgical procedure to empty my uterus, known colloquially as a D. and C. (The last two options are the same choices offered to abortion patients.)
I chose the D. and C., mainly because I wanted to get this awful experience over with as soon as possible.
Years later, I am at peace with the pregnancy loss; the fetus had a chromosomal issue called Turner syndrome, which “may cause up to 10 percent of all first-trimester miscarriages,” according to the National Institutes of Health. I know now that miscarriages are common. An estimated one-quarter of all pregnancies and around 10 percent of known pregnancies end in miscarriage before 20 weeks. Thankfully, I was able to have another healthy child later. But that two-week wait remains painful to think about.
And yet I’m thinking about it in the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s ruling on Friday allowing federal court challenges to Texas’ restrictive abortion law, S.B. 8, but leaving the law in effect, essentially outlawing abortions after six weeks in that state. That’s because in countries where elective abortion is outlawed or extremely restricted, women are not given the choices I had when they miscarry.
Abortion restrictions create a chilling effect on medical professionals who are understandably concerned about being prosecuted for anything resembling elective abortion. And so doctors in countries with restrictive laws “don’t always provide all the relevant information concerning the pregnancy, especially if they see there are complications and they’re afraid women can take drastic measures,” said Irene Donadio, a senior adviser at the International Planned Parenthood Federation.
I asked Dr. Isabel Stabile, a gynecologist in private practice in Malta and an abortion-rights activist, what first-trimester miscarriage care looks like in her country, where there is a total ban on abortion, with no exceptions. “The short answer to this question is in Malta it’s always a wait and see. Women are never given the immediate option of being hospitalized and having a D. and C. nor having pills so we can proceed with a spontaneous miscarriage. The medical and surgical options are never offered as a first line,” she said.
She said that in Malta, if your body is holding on to a miscarriage for three or four weeks, you may eventually be given pills to end the pregnancy. By that time, Dr. Stabile said, you may be at greater risk of a rare but serious blood-clotting complication called disseminated intravascular coagulation, which can be avoided by ending a miscarriage earlier. “It’s known as a complication. One should at least be monitored,” Dr. Stabile said. But in general, the drawn-out nature and “uncertainty of the wait” are the biggest stresses for Maltese women, she said. “You have no idea how long that will be. Will it be one day, one week or one month?”
In cases like mine, when there is no detectable heartbeat, the trauma may primarily be to women’s mental health. But when there is a detectable heartbeat and there are other pregnancy complications, there are physiological stakes, including that women can and have died. In Poland, which has some of the strictest abortion laws in Europe, a 30-year-old woman named Izabela died of septic shock this year in Pszczyna after doctors declined to intervene to save her life. The fetus’s heart was still beating, so physicians may have been afraid to break the country’s laws because the penalty is spending three years in prison, according to reporting in The Guardian.
Izabela isn’t the only one. In 2012, before Irish abortion restrictions were rolled back in 2018, a 31-year-old woman named Savita Halappanavar died in similar circumstances. In 2016 in Italy, where abortion is legal until about the 12th week, a woman named Valentina Milluzzo died of sepsis because her doctor refused to help her end her twin pregnancy, even after one twin no longer had a heartbeat. “According to the woman’s relatives, the gynecologist, who was a conscientious objector” — something that’s legal under Italy’s abortion law — “refused to perform an abortion of the second twin after the loss of the first fetus. He remarked that ‘as long as it [the fetus] is alive, I will not intervene,’” wrote Elena Caruso in the academic journal Feminist Legal Studies.
If you think this wouldn’t happen in the United States, think again, because there is evidence that it is already happening. At Catholic hospitals, which are expected to follow directives set by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to never allow abortion services, women may not be getting the full slate of medical options when they present with an ectopic pregnancy.
In September, Ghazaleh Moayedi, an obstetrician-gynecologist in Texas, sounded the alarm in these pages. “Pregnancies that face complications will now be at greater risk. Under this new law, the only abortion exception allowed is for a medical emergency. That might mean if a woman will imminently lose an organ or die without intervention. But how we judge that risk will play out individually with each hospital’s policy, in each clinic,” she wrote. “I can think of no other area of health care in which we would wait for someone to worsen nearly to the point of death before we offered intervention. It’s just unconscionable.”
When I read some of the testimony of reproductive choice opponents, I think about how certain they sound about what life is. Situations like mine, which existed in a liminal state for weeks, defy easy categorization and require intimate and informed medical care, not blunt force laws that don’t consider these delicate scenarios.
And when I look at polls in which a low percentage of American voters list abortion rights as a top issue, I wonder if those voters have considered how a lack of access to these procedures may affect them, even if they would never have an elective abortion. Those two weeks were among the worst of my life, and thinking about anyone having to prolong that kind of purgatory just about breaks my heart.
By Paul Krugman, Dec. 16, 2021https://www.nytimes.com/2021/12/16/opinion/inflation-economy-2021.html
I will always associate inflation with the taste of Hamburger Helper.
In the summer of 1973 I shared an apartment with several other college students; we didn’t have much money, and the cost of living was soaring. By 1974 the overall inflation rate would hit 12 percent, and some goods had already seen big price increases. Ground beef, in particular, was 49 percent more expensive in August 1973 than it had been two years earlier. So we tried to stretch it.
Beyond the dismay I felt about being unable to afford unadulterated burgers was the anxiety, the sense that things were out of control. Even though the incomes of most people were rising faster than inflation, Americans were unnerved by the way a dollar seemed to buy less with each passing week. That feeling may be one reason many Americans now seem so downbeat about a booming economy.
The inflation surge of the 1970s was the fourth time after World War II that inflation had topped 5 percent at an annual rate. There would be smaller surges in 1991 and 2008, and a surge that fell just short of 5 percent in 2010-11.
Now we’re experiencing another episode, the highest inflation in almost 40 years. The Consumer Price Index in November was 6.8 percent higher than it had been a year earlier. Much of this rise was due to huge price increases in a few sectors: Gasoline prices were up 58 percent, used cars and hotel rooms up 31 percent and 26 percent respectively and, yes, meat prices up 16 percent. But some (though not all) analysts believe that inflation is starting to spread more widely through the economy.
The current bout of inflation came on suddenly. Early this year inflation was still low; as recently as March members of the Fed’s Open Market Committee, which sets monetary policy, expected their preferred price measure (which usually runs a bit below the Consumer Price Index) to rise only 2.4 percent this year. Even once the inflation numbers shot up, many economists — myself included — argued that the surge was likely to prove transitory. But at the very least it’s now clear that “transitory” inflation will last longer than most of us on that team expected. And on Wednesday the Fed moved to tighten monetary policy, reducing its bond purchases and indicating that it expects to raise interest rates at least modestly next year.
Inflation is an emotional subject. No other topic I write about generates as much hate mail. And debate over the current inflation is especially fraught because assessments of the economy have become incredibly partisan and we are in general living in a post-truth political environment.
But it’s still important to try to make sense of what is happening. Does it reflect a policy failure, or just the teething problems of an economy recovering from the pandemic slump? How long can we expect inflation to stay high? And what, if anything, should be done about it?
To preview, I believe that what we’re seeing mainly reflects the inherent dislocations from the pandemic, rather than, say, excessive government spending. I also believe that inflation will subside over the course of the next year and that we shouldn’t take any drastic action. But reasonable economists disagree, and they could be right.
To understand this dispute, we need to talk about what has caused inflation in the past.
Inflation, goes an old line, is caused by “too much money chasing too few goods.” Alas, sometimes it’s more complicated than that. Sometimes inflation is caused by self-perpetuating expectations; sometimes it’s the temporary product of fluctuations in commodity prices. History gives us clear examples of all three possibilities.
The White House Council of Economic Advisers suggested in July that today’s inflation most closely resembles the inflation spike of 1946-1948. This was a classic case of “demand pull” inflation — that is, it really was a case of too much money chasing too few goods. Consumers were flush with cash from wartime savings, and there was a lot of pent-up demand, especially for durable goods like automobiles, after years of wartime rationing. So when rationing ended there was a rush to buy things in an economy still not fully converted back to peacetime production. The result was about two years of very high inflation, peaking at almost 20 percent.
The next inflation surge, during the Korean War, was also driven by a rapid increase in spending. Inflation peaked at more than 9 percent.
For observers of the current scene, the most interesting aspect of these early postwar inflation spikes may be their transitory nature. I don’t mean that they went away in a matter of months; as I said, the 1946-1948 episode went on for about two years. But when spending dropped back to more sustainable levels, inflation quickly followed suit.
That wasn’t the case for the inflation of the 1960s.
True, this inflation started with demand pull: Lyndon Johnson increased federal spending as he pursued both the Vietnam War and the Great Society, but he was unwilling at first to restrain private spending by raising taxes. At the same time, the Federal Reserve kept interest rates low, which kept things like housing construction running hot.
The difference between Vietnam War inflation and Korean War inflation was what happened when policymakers finally acted to rein in overall spending through interest rate increases in 1969. This led to a recession and a sharp rise in unemployment, yet unlike in the 1950s, inflation remained stubbornly high for a long time.
Some economists had in effect predicted that this would happen. In the 1960s many economists believed that policymakers could achieve lower unemployment if they were willing to accept more inflation. In 1968, however, Milton Friedman and Edmund S. Phelps each argued that this was an illusion.
Sustained inflation, both asserted, would get built into the expectations of workers, employers, companies setting prices and so on. And once inflation was embedded in expectations it would become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
This meant that policymakers would have to accept ever-accelerating inflation if they wanted to keep unemployment low. Furthermore, once inflation had become embedded, any attempt to get inflation back down would require an extended slump — and for a while high inflation would go along with high unemployment, a situation often dubbed “stagflation.”
And stagflation came. Persistent inflation in 1970-71 was only a foretaste. In 1972 a politicized Fed juiced up the economy to help Richard Nixon’s re-election campaign; inflation was already almost 8 percent when the Arab oil embargo sent oil prices soaring. Inflation would remain high for a decade, despite high unemployment.
Stagflation was eventually ended, but at a huge cost. Under the leadership of Paul Volcker, the Fed sharply reduced growth in the money supply, sending interest rates well into double digits and provoking a deep slump that raised the unemployment rate to 10.8 percent. However, by the time America finally emerged from that slump — unemployment didn’t fall below 6 percent until late 1987 — expectations of high inflation had been largely purged from the economy. As some economists put it, expectations of inflation had become “anchored” at a low level.
Despite these anchored expectations, however, there have been several inflationary spikes, most recently in 2010-11. Each of these spikes was largely driven by the prices of goods whose prices are always volatile, especially oil. Each was accompanied by dire warnings that runaway inflation was just around the corner. But such warnings proved, again and again, to be false alarms.
How 2021 happened
So why has inflation surged this year, and will it stay high?
Mainstream economists are currently divided between what are now widely called Team Transitory and Team Persistent. Team Transitory, myself included, has argued that we’re looking at a temporary blip — although longer lasting than we first expected. Others, however, warn that we may face something comparable to the stagflation of the 1970s. And credit where credit is due: So far, warnings about inflation have proved right, while Team Transitory’s predictions that inflation would quickly fade have been wrong.
But this inflation hasn’t followed a simple script. What we’re seeing instead is a strange episode that exhibits some parallels to past events but also includes new elements.
Soon after President Biden was inaugurated, Larry Summers and other prominent economists, notably Olivier Blanchard, the former chief economist of the International Monetary Fund, warned that the American Rescue Plan, the $1.9 trillion bill enacted early in the Biden administration, would increase spending by far more than the amount of slack remaining in the economy and that this unsustainable boom in demand would cause high inflation. Team Transitory argued, instead, that much of the money the government handed out would be saved rather than spent, so that the inflationary consequences would be mild.
Inflation did in fact shoot up, but the odd thing is that overall spending isn’t extraordinarily high; it’s up a lot this year, but only enough to bring us more or less back to the prepandemic trend. So why are prices soaring?
Part of the answer, as I and many others have noted, involves supply chains. The conveyor belt that normally delivers goods to consumers suffers from shortages of port capacity, truck drivers, warehouse space and more, and a shortage of silicon chips is crimping production of many goods, especially cars. A recent report from the influential Bank for International Settlements estimates that price rises caused by bottlenecks in supply have raised U.S. inflation by 2.8 percentage points over the past year.
Now, global supply chains haven’t broken. In fact, they’re delivering more goods than ever before. But they haven’t been able to keep up with extraordinary demand. Total consumer spending hasn’t grown all that fast, but in an economy still shaped by the pandemic, people have shifted their consumption from experiences to stuff — that is, they’ve been spending less on services but much more on goods. The caricature version is that people unable or unwilling to go to the gym bought Pelotons instead, and something like that has in fact happened across the board.
Here’s what the numbers look like. Overall consumption is up 3.5 percent since the pandemic began, roughly in line with normal growth. Consumption of services, however, is still below prepandemic levels, while purchases of durable goods, though down somewhat from their peak, are still running very high.
No wonder the ports are clogged!
Over time, supply-chain problems may largely solve themselves. A receding pandemic in the United States, despite some rise in cases, has already caused a partial reversal of the skew away from services toward goods; this will take pressure off supply chains. And as an old line has it, the cure for high prices is high prices: The private sector has strong incentives to unsnarl supply chains, and in fact is starting to do that.
In particular, large retailers have found ways to get the goods they need, and they say they’re fully stocked for the holiday season. And measures of supply-chain stress such as freight rates have started to improve.
Yet supply-chain problems aren’t the whole story. Even aside from bottlenecks, the economy’s productive capacity has been limited by the Great Resignation, the apparent unwillingness of many Americans idled by the pandemic to return to work. There are still four million fewer Americans working than there were on the eve of the pandemic, but labor markets look very tight, with record numbers of workers quitting their jobs (a sign that they believe new jobs are easy to find) and understaffed employers bidding wages up at the fastest rate in decades. So spending does appear to be exceeding productive capacity, not so much because spending is all that high but because capacity is unexpectedly low.
Inflation caused by supply-chain disruptions will probably fall within a few months, but it’s not at all clear whether Americans who have dropped out of the labor force will return. And even if inflation does come down it might stay uncomfortably high for a while. Remember, the first postwar bout of inflation, which in hindsight looks obviously transitory, lasted for two years.
So how should policy respond?
To squeeze or not to squeeze, that is the question
I’m a card-carrying member of Team Transitory. But I would reconsider my allegiance if I saw evidence that expectations of future inflation are starting to drive prices — that is, if there were widespread stories of producers raising prices, even though costs and demand for their products aren’t exceptionally high, because they expect rising costs and/or rising prices on the part of competitors over the next year or two. That’s what kept inflation high even through recessions in the 1970s.
So far I don’t see signs that this is happening — although the truth is that we don’t have good ways to track the relevant expectations. I’ve been looking at stories in the business press and surveys like the Fed’s Beige Book, which asks many businesses about economic conditions; I haven’t (yet?) seen reports of expectations-driven inflation. Bond markets are essentially predicting a temporary burst of inflation that will subside over time. Consumers say that this is a bad time to buy many durable goods, which they wouldn’t say if they expected prices to rise even more in the future.
For what it’s worth, the Federal Reserve, while it has stopped using the term “transitory,” still appears to believe that we’re mostly looking at a fairly short-term problem, declaring in its most recent statement, “Supply and demand imbalances related to the pandemic and the reopening of the economy have continued to contribute to elevated levels of inflation.”
Still, an unmooring of inflation expectations is possible. Given that, what should policymakers be doing right now? And by “policymakers” I basically mean the Fed; political posturing aside, since, given congressional deadlock, nothing that will make a material difference to inflation is likely to happen on the fiscal side, inflation policy mainly means monetary policy.
I recently participated in a meeting that included a number of the most prominent figures in the inflation debate — a meeting in which, to be honest, those of us still on Team Transitory were definitely in the minority. The meeting was off the record, but I asked Larry Summers and Jason Furman, a top economist in the Obama administration, to share by email summaries of their positions.
Summers offered a grim prognosis, declaring, “I see a clearer path to stagflation as inflation encounters supply shocks and Fed response than to sustained growth and price stability.” The best hope, he suggested, was along the lines of what the Fed has now done, end its purchases of mortgage-backed securities (which I agree with because I don’t see what purpose those purchases serve at this point) and plan to raise interest rates in 2022 — four times, he said — with “a willingness to adjust symmetrically with events.” In other words, maybe hike less, but maybe hike even more.
Furman was less grim, saying, “We should not drop the goal of pursuing a hot economy,” but he wanted us to slow things down, to “get there by throwing one log on the fire at a time.” His policy recommendation, however, wasn’t that different. He called for three rate hikes next year, as the Fed said on Wednesday that it was considering.
Where am I in this debate? Clearly, a sufficiently large rate hike would bring inflation down. Push America into a recession, and the pressure on ports, trucking and warehouses would end; prices of many goods would stop rising and would indeed come down. On the other hand, unemployment would rise. And if you believe that we’re mainly looking at temporary bottlenecks, you don’t want to see hundreds of thousands, maybe millions of workers losing their jobs for the sake of reducing congestion at the Port of Los Angeles.
But what both Summers and Furman are arguing is that the inflation problem is bigger than temporary bottlenecks; Furman is also in effect arguing that tapping on the monetary brakes could cool off inflation without causing a recession, although Summers doesn’t think we’re likely to avoid at least a period of stagflation when bringing inflation down.
The Fed’s current, somewhat chastened, position seems almost identical to Furman’s. The latest projections from board members and Fed presidents are for the interest rate the Fed controls to rise next year, but by less than one percentage point, and for the unemployment rate to keep falling.
Perhaps surprisingly, my own position on policy substance isn’t all that different from either Furman’s or the Fed’s. I think inflation is mainly bottlenecks and other transitory factors and will come down, but I’m not certain, and I am definitely open to the possibility that the Fed should raise rates, possibly before the middle of next year. I think the Fed should wait for more information but be willing to hike rates modestly if inflation stays high; Furman, as I understand it, thinks the Fed should plan to hike rates modestly (in correspondence he suggested one percentage point or less over the course of 2022, matching the Fed’s projections) but be willing to back off if inflation recedes.
This seems like a fairly nuanced distinction. It is, of course, possible that bad inflation news will force far more draconian tightening than the Fed is currently contemplating, even now.
Maybe the real takeaway here should be how little we know about where we are in this strange economic episode. Economists like me who didn’t expect much inflation were wrong, but economists who did predict inflation were arguably right for the wrong reasons, and nobody really knows what’s coming.
My own view is that we should be really hesitant about killing the boom prematurely. But like everyone who’s taking this debate seriously, I’m hanging on the data and wonder every day whether I’m wrong.
Anthony Broadwater was exonerated in the 1981 rape of Ms. Sebold, now a best-selling author. When his lawyers saw the trial transcript, they could only wonder what took so long.
By Corina Knoll, Karen Zraick and Alexandra Alter, Dec. 15, 2021
Anthony Broadwater on Marshall Street, near Syracuse University, where Ms. Sebold first misidentified him as her rapist. Credit...Benjamin Cleeton for The New York Times
The young woman’s face was bruised in multiple places, her long brown hair matted with bits of leaves.
There was a fresh bump on the back of her head and a cut on the left side of her nose. Her tan cardigan and Calvin Klein jeans were streaked with dirt. Abrasions covered her body. Traces of blood and semen were found inside her vagina as well as on her underwear.
She was just 18, a freshman at Syracuse University who had arrived at the adjacent Crouse Irving Memorial Hospital in the early morning of May 8, 1981.
Her name was Alice Sebold. And she had been raped.
The assailant was a stranger, but Ms. Sebold had studied his appearance — his small but muscular build, the way he gestured, his eyes and lips.
And so, five months later, when she spotted a man named Anthony Broadwater near a restaurant on Marshall Street, Ms. Sebold knew she had solved her case. She reported him to the authorities, saying that Mr. Broadwater had said to her, “Don’t I know you from somewhere?”
At the trial the following year, Ms. Sebold took the stand and described how she had celebrated the last day of the school year at a friend’s apartment, then left to head back to her dormitory, following a brick path through Thornden Park.
She testified that a man had grabbed her from behind, punched her, threatened to kill her with a knife, dragged her by her hair, then raped her in what she described as a tunnel.
“Is there any doubt in your mind, Miss Sebold, that the person that you saw on Marshall Street is the person who attacked you on May 8 in Thornden Park?” the prosecutor asked.
“No doubt whatsoever.”
Years later, Ms. Sebold would recount in a best-selling memoir that she felt confident justice had been served. She had been sweaty and shaky by the end of her testimony but was bolstered by the words of a bailiff.
“I’ve been in this business for 30 years,” he said. “You are the best rape witness I’ve ever seen on the stand.”
From the Marine Corps to a police lineup
Anthony James Broadwater was born in Syracuse, the fourth of six boys, and lived for a while near Syracuse University, where his father worked as a janitor. He rarely set foot on campus, saying he felt that it was “off limits” to him and other young Black locals. Instead, he spent time at a community recreation center and the local Boys & Girls Club.
When he was about 5 years old, his mother died of pneumonia. It was he and his brother Wade who discovered her body on the couch in their living room.
Known as “Tony,” Anthony Broadwater was outgoing and rambunctious, often tussling with his siblings. Wade Broadwater recalled how his brother could get caught up in entertaining a crowd and was once stopped for letting kids ride on the roof of his car. While the police who patrolled the neighborhood were familiar with the brothers, Anthony Broadwater had never been accused of anything serious.
A skilled wrestler at Henninger High School, he dropped out around 17 and was intrigued when a Marine Corps recruiter said he could be on a flight to California within days. “I wanted to see the world and try to better myself,” he said.
Stationed at Twentynine Palms and Camp Pendleton, he ended up with a cyst on his wrist. He was discharged and received disability for the injury. He returned to Syracuse, where his father was ill with stomach cancer, and eventually took a job installing phones for a telecommunications company.
On Oct. 5, 1981, he and a friend drove over to Marshall Street, a stretch of restaurants and shops that had long served as a gathering place for college students. While his friend was inside a store, Mr. Broadwater recognized a police officer from his younger days. Later, in court, the officer and Mr. Broadwater would each remember calling out to the other, “Don’t I know you?”
The two made small talk, unaware that Ms. Sebold had passed Mr. Broadwater on the street and was watching their exchange.
Days later, Mr. Broadwater was taken into custody. Ms. Sebold had identified him as her rapist.
But when it came time for the police lineup, Ms. Sebold, who is white, looked at the Black men before her and indicated that her attacker was the last person in the row, Number Five. Mr. Broadwater was Number Four. She would insist an hour later that the two men had looked identical to her.
Studies would later show that misidentifications by eyewitnesses, especially those that are cross-racial, make up a large percentage of erroneous convictions.
Mr. Broadwater was charged with eight felony counts, including rape and sodomy. He was 20 years old.
‘He was emphatic throughout that they got the wrong guy’
In 1981, Syracuse was a city of 170,000 with a dwindling manufacturing industry. Located in Central New York at the edge of the Finger Lakes region, its economy had grown increasingly dependent on Syracuse University, although a disconnect loomed between students and their surroundings.
Locals, often called “townies,” were discouraged from going near the campus in the University Hill neighborhood in the center of the city. Black residents made up about 16 percent of the city’s population and tended to live in its poorer areas.
Onondaga County did not have a public defender’s division, so it relied on a list of volunteers in private practice who worked for a small hourly rate. The Broadwater case was assigned to Steven Paquette, a defense attorney two years into his career who had already represented dozens of clients.
Mr. Paquette, the son of a UPS driver, was the first in his family to attend college and was idealistic about criminal defense work. He often felt that his Black clients could not get a fair shake in a county where jury pools tended to be mostly white and conservative.
He found Mr. Broadwater to be unusual because he was intensely eager about cooperating with the district attorney’s office.
“He was emphatic throughout that they got the wrong guy,” recalled Mr. Paquette, now 66. “It was a disbelief coupled with a faith that once the facts were out, justice would be done for him.”
Mr. Paquette was one of more than two dozen people connected to Mr. Broadwater, Ms. Sebold or the rape case who spoke to The New York Times.
Times reporters also reviewed hundreds of pages of court documents and exhibits, as well as Ms. Sebold’s memoir, for this article.
Mr. Paquette encouraged Mr. Broadwater to opt for a bench trial. The judge, Walter T. Gorman, was considered a thoughtful and competent adjudicator.
The state’s case was to be presented by William Mastine, a confident prosecutor whose law career would end the following decade after he pleaded guilty to defrauding a client, according to court documents and news reports.
At 6-foot-6, Mr. Mastine usually towered over others in the courtroom and enjoyed facing off against another lawyer on a final stage. “It’s not a rush, just a satisfaction that what you’re doing is right,” said Mr. Mastine, now 74.
He had been handed the Broadwater case only a week before, he said. “Based upon everything we had in front of us, he was the guy,” he said.
The trial began on May 17, 1982, and lasted just two days. DNA analysis was unavailable at the time, but a forensic chemist testified that a pubic hair from a Black person that had been recovered from the rape kit was “consistent” with the hair sample Mr. Broadwater had submitted.
Hair comparison has since been discredited as an unreliable science that can match little beyond a person’s race and is responsible for many wrongful convictions.
Ms. Sebold held firm to her account.
“I could not have identified him as the man who raped me unless he was the man who raped me,” she testified.
Mr. Broadwater was the last to take the stand, the only witness to testify for the defense. His lawyer asked him to discuss his unique facial markings — features Ms. Sebold had never reported, although she had described being a centimeter away from her rapist.
“I have a scar underneath my chin, and I had an operation in ’74 on my eye,” Mr. Broadwater testified. “Also, I have a chipped tooth.”
In his closing argument, Mr. Mastine, the prosecutor, reminded the court that Ms. Sebold had been a virgin, a detail brought up more than once throughout the case.
Afterward, the defense was startled when Judge Gorman immediately announced he was ready to rule.
He declared simply and with no insight into his decision that Mr. Broadwater was guilty of rape in the first degree.
Mr. Broadwater was taken into custody, departing from a courtroom devoid of any friends or family members. He had not asked anyone to attend the trial, certain that he would walk free.
A flawed trial described in a memoir
Ms. Sebold would go on to write “The Lovely Bones,” a novel about a 14-year-old girl who is raped and murdered. Published in 2002, it reached the top of the New York Times best-seller list, selling more than 10 million copies before eventually being adapted into a film.
Its success led readers to discover “Lucky,” the 1999 memoir Ms. Sebold had written about her own rape, in which she had changed the name of her attacker to Gregory Madison.
The raw, personal account of her trauma served as inspiration for many sexual assault victims and impressed those who had already acknowledged her writing talent.
“She was a considered person, a deeply honest-to-the-core writer, unstinting and tenaciously unwilling to offer anything but her best,” said the poet Tess Gallagher, one of Ms. Sebold’s professors at Syracuse, in an email to The Times. Ms. Gallagher had also accompanied Ms. Sebold to the preliminary hearing for the assault case.
“I was beside her then and remember how terrified she was in that courtroom,” Ms. Gallagher said.
The memoir follows Ms. Sebold’s entire journey through the criminal justice system.
In one scene, she recounts how a prosecutor she trusted, named Gail Uebelhoer, told her that the man she identified in the lineup was a friend of Mr. Broadwater and had tricked her by staring menacingly.
According to the book, Ms. Uebelhoer then coached her into explaining away the misidentification in front of the grand jury. When reached by The Times, Ms. Uebelhoer declined to comment.
Even slight or inadvertent nudges during lineups have been shown to influence a victim’s memory. According to the Innocence Project, lineups should be conducted in a double-blind manner, where the administrator does not know which person is the suspect and the witness is not assured the suspect is present.
Ms. Sebold also described being given a short break while testifying, during which she received a visit from Judge Gorman, who warmly asked about her family. “His tone was more gentle than the one he used in court,” Ms. Sebold wrote. Judge Gorman died in 2009.
These passages would help illustrate the flaws in Mr. Broadwater’s case. But not for two more decades.
‘I don’t know how they did this to you’
While in prison, Mr. Broadwater obtained his G.E.D. and studied the law, trying repeatedly to get his case revisited. At one point he hoped to retain Johnnie Cochran, sending $1,000 saved from his disability payments and custodial job. But the lawyer’s firm returned the money, informing him it did not handle post-conviction matters.
Mr. Broadwater’s father, who believed in his innocence, wanted to help but was undergoing chemotherapy. He died in 1983.
At each parole hearing, Mr. Broadwater refused to admit guilt, despite knowing he would fare better if he expressed responsibility for the crime. He wondered if he would die in prison like the man he watched get fatally stabbed during a fight.
Sixteen years crept by. He was finally released on the last day of 1998. But freedom came with a cage. A sex offender on parole, he had to abide by a curfew and was prohibited from most workplaces.
He relied on temporary gigs, taking a job at a metal plating factory, bagging potatoes, doing yardwork and roofing, mopping floors, scavenging for scrap metal. Night jobs were helpful, because they gave him the alibi he had lacked when police questioned him about Ms. Sebold. He believed he had been home at the time but had no proof.
Whispers that he was a rapist were deafening. Friends were scarce. Mr. Broadwater’s computer use had to be monitored after he was released, so he found it easier just to never learn how to work one. Still, he continued to reach out to lawyers.
One disappeared with $1,400. Another failed to obtain Mr. Broadwater’s file, which had been sealed. When a car accident left Mr. Broadwater with a neck injury, he set aside most of the $30,000 payout, hoping he could find a lawyer to take his case.
He began dating Elizabeth a year after his release. She was Baptist like him, had a sincere way about her and was a homebody. He wasted no time handing her a file with information about his past.
“If you’re going to be in a relationship with me, this is what I’m going to be fighting all my life,” he said. She pored over the papers in tears. “I don’t know how they did this to you,” she said. “I’m going to be with you.”
They moved into the dilapidated house his father had left behind. She wanted children, but Mr. Broadwater felt it would be unfair to bring kids into his difficult world.
He learned of Ms. Sebold’s memoir around 2006, but he had no interest in reading what he considered his own horror story.
A faulty conviction gets a fresh look
It was in the hands of another convicted felon that the case against Mr. Broadwater began to unravel.
Timothy Mucciante was a disbarred lawyer from Michigan who had gone to prison multiple times for fraud. His most wild scheme was one in which he convinced investors he would buy condoms and latex gloves and trade them in Russia for chickens that would be sold in Saudi Arabia. He pocketed the money instead.
After his last prison stint ended in 2010, Mr. Mucciante hoped to reform himself, he said.
“I certainly have a lot to make up for in terms of what I owe the world,” he said in an interview.
Earlier this year, Mr. Mucciante was forging ahead in a new career, having started his own film production company. He had joined other producers who were adapting Ms. Sebold’s memoir and planning to film it in Toronto. He offered to cover the film’s entire budget of 6.5 million Canadian dollars.
As Mr. Mucciante read the script and the book, he was struck by how little evidence was presented at trial. He said he began to doubt the memoir’s veracity and withheld funding until he was dismissed from the project, which never got off the ground.
But three people who worked on the film said Mr. Mucciante did not raise questions about the memoir, and that his contract was terminated in early June because he failed to deliver the money he had promised, claims Mr. Mucciante disputes.
Court documents show Mr. Mucciante, 62, has filed for bankruptcy on at least a dozen occasions, but he told The Times that he is currently financially stable.
In late June, Mr. Mucciante decided to take a deeper look at Ms. Sebold’s trial. He found and hired Dan Myers, a retired detective who had spent 20 years with the Onondaga County Sheriff’s Office and was working as a private investigator.
Mr. Myers learned that Gregory Madison from the book was in fact Anthony Broadwater. He told The Times that a police officer who worked on the case had offered him a stunning admission: He did not believe the right man had been caught.
Mr. Myers connected Mr. Broadwater with David Hammond, a criminal defense lawyer he worked with who had served as a judge advocate in the Army. Mr. Hammond also helped represent Chelsea Manning as she appealed her conviction for espionage.
Intrigued, Mr. Hammond reached out to Melissa Swartz, a lawyer at a different firm known for her forensic expertise.
The two were friends and liked to team up. One of their cases was taking years to put together. But as they separately combed through Mr. Broadwater’s files, they began feverishly texting each other.
After talking at length with Mr. Broadwater and reading Ms. Sebold’s memoir, the lawyers discovered the arguments they could make for exoneration were astonishingly obvious: The flawed hair comparison testimony. The heavy reliance on Ms. Sebold spotting her rapist five months afterward. The misidentification during the police lineup. The fact that Mr. Broadwater had passed two polygraph tests.
All of it illustrated what, Mr. Hammond said, was a travesty hiding in plain sight: “Forty years, yet all it took was someone to pick up the trial transcript and, frankly, talk to Anthony and read ‘Lucky.’”
Soon the same revelations were had by William Fitzpatrick, the Onondaga County district attorney who joined Mr. Broadwater’s lawyers in their motion to overturn the conviction. A handful of years ago, he said, he had instructed his staff to review cases that used hair comparison. Mr. Broadwater’s name never came up.
Mr. Fitzpatrick said he emailed with Ms. Sebold and asked her about conversations that, as depicted in the memoir, were improper.
Ms. Sebold, he said, told him that a long time had passed by the time she wrote the memoir and that she had written scenes as she remembered them.
On Nov. 22, Mr. Broadwater arrived at a courthouse a block away from the one that had entombed him in a false narrative. He was 61 years old, with gray in his braids and a forehead creased with age.
When the judge announced his exoneration, he let out a gasp, leaned forward and cried.
An earth-shattering change’
Ms. Sebold said she had learned a few weeks before Mr. Broadwater’s exoneration that the district attorney was re-evaluating the case.
“It’s hard to unravel a truth I now know to be false and that has been part of my life for forty years and my work for twenty, without my whole understanding of truth and justice falling apart,” she said through a spokesman in an email to The Times, adding that she hadn’t been able to think about much else.
“Every word I’ve read that Anthony Broadwater has said has made me see him as a man who, though brutalized, somehow came through it with a generous heart,” she said. “To go from thinking he was the man who raped me to believing he was an innocent victim is an earth-shattering change.”
In an earlier statement posted to Medium, Ms. Sebold said that her “goal in 1982 was justice — not to perpetuate injustice” and that she was now wrestling with the realization that her rapist went free.
She said that Mr. Broadwater had become “another young Black man brutalized by our flawed legal system.” She added: “I am sorry most of all for the fact that the life you could have led was unjustly robbed from you.”
Scribner, which published “Lucky,” has ceased its distribution and will consider along with Ms. Sebold how it might be revised. “To do justice to the new reality and all the ramifications of the past would be a huge undertaking,” Ms. Sebold said in her email. “It might also be amazing.”
Fans of the author now find themselves grappling with the news that Mr. Broadwater had been a victim, too.
“I bought her books,” wrote one woman who contributed to a GoFundMe set up for Mr. Broadwater by a friend of Mr. Mucciante. “I owed him.”
Ms. Sebold, who lives in San Francisco, also has supporters who empathize with her complicated story.
“That that thing should have so defined her life and her art, and now it comes back into her life yet again — my heart really goes out to her,” said the author Tobias Wolff, who had been Ms. Sebold’s professor at Syracuse and who said she had come to him, distressed, after seeing the man she thought had raped her.
Among those expressing empathy is Mr. Broadwater. “That was very strong and courageous of her to do that, I know that was weighing on her mind,” he said of her statement. “She went through an ordeal, and I went through one too.”
He plans to seek financial restitution from the state and is considering filing a federal civil rights lawsuit. A documentary about him, spearheaded by Mr. Mucciante, is in the works with the film production company Red Hawk Films, according to Mr. Mucciante and two other producers involved in the project.
Mr. Broadwater recently got help setting up his first email address, as well as an online bank account. He hopes he and Elizabeth can one day take a vacation, see some relatives. And if they could settle into a farmhouse with a swath of land, that would be a nice way to live.
For now, the exterior of Mr. Broadwater’s life has not changed much since being exonerated. He walks with a cane, in need of surgeries for hip and knee injuries from football games played in prison. His physical limitations have made it hard to find a steady job. He cleans out houses, tows debris with his truck, and looks for discarded appliances to sell, recently scoring a refrigerator left on the side of the road.
“I’m just grateful, man, that I have the normalcy now of being a decent person to people’s eyes,” he said.
The last few weeks have been thrilling, he said. But it has been strange to receive so much public support. The villain in someone else’s story, it is not lost on him that he was, for most of his life, the only champion of his own.
Sheelagh McNeill and Kirsten Noyes contributed research.
By Ezra Klein, Dec. 16, 2021https://www.nytimes.com/2021/12/16/opinion/factory-farming-animals.html?action=click&module=Well&pgtype=Homepage§ion=OpEd%20Columnists
It’s hard to know where your charitable dollars will do the most good. This year, I’ll focus most of my giving on GiveDirectly, which does exactly what it promises: Gives money to the world’s poorest people, without attaching strings, conditions or complexity.
Its approach has been proven to work, in part because it is built on a foundation of respect: GiveDirectly recognizes that the global poor are the experts on their own lives, and their own needs, and that what they are missing is money. When giving to ease human suffering, sometimes the simplest strategy is best.
But about 10 percent of my donations every year goes to easing, or ending, the suffering of factory farmed animals, which is mind-melting in its scale. The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that about 80 billion — yes, billion — land animals are slaughtered each year for food, and, according to some estimates, between 51 and 160 billion farmed fish join them. The overwhelming majority of these animals are raised and killed in conditions with no analogue in history, and they suffer terribly. But farm animals are often an afterthought even in animal-related giving, in which two-thirds of the money goes to shelters.
Two strategies dominate among groups trying to help factory farmed animals. One is amelioration: trying to better the conditions of these animals now. Here, the Humane League and Mercy for Animals are my picks. The second is substitution: replacing the animals with meat made from plants or grown from cells. Here, the Good Food Institute, New Harvest and the Material Innovation Initiative are my recommendations. In choosing these groups, I’ve relied heavily on the work Open Philanthropy and Animal Charity Evaluators have done assessing the effectiveness of dozens of animal-suffering groups, as well as my own reporting.
Naming the groups is the easy part. Now comes the hard part: Persuading you that they’re worthy of your support.
How we treat farm animals today will be seen, I believe, as a defining moral failing of our age. Humans have always eaten animals. We’ve hunted them, bred them, raised them and consumed them. What’s changed over the past century is that we’ve developed the technology to produce meat in industrialized conditions, and that has opened vast new vistas for both production and suffering.
In past eras, we didn’t have the antibiotics and sanitation chemicals needed to keep so many animals crowded so closely together, nor the preservation and transportation technologies needed to ship them en masse. Disease would rip through thick flocks, and carcasses would spoil across long trips. Today, the factory farms that produce the overwhelming majority of meat, both globally and domestically, are dark marvels of technology, as are the carefully bred and managed animals inside them.
Since the 1950s, broiler chickens have roughly quadrupled in size, and it now takes them 6 weeks, not 15, to grow to slaughter weight. These are inventions, not just chickens. But the cheap meat they made possible sent demand skyrocketing: In the United States alone, the available amount of chicken meat per person has shot from about 10 pounds in 1910 to about 65 pounds in 2018.
In 2020, David Coman-Hidy, president of the Humane League, told me about his work trying to persuade companies to shift from live shackling of chickens to atmospheric killing. In live shackling, which remains the dominant method, workers turn chickens upside down to shackle them by their legs to a conveyor. These are birds that have barely ever moved being handled by low-paid workers with inhuman production quotas. The birds flap and squawk in terror, and the shackling can leave them with broken legs or dislocated hips.
The conveyor is supposed to drag them through electrified water, stunning them before their throats are slit. But the panicked, spasming birds sometimes miss the bath, and their throats are cut while they are conscious and terrified. If the kill isn’t clean, they are pulled through boiling water that defeathers them while still conscious. You can watch the process here, if you have the stomach for it.
The Humane League, and others, are trying to persuade chicken producers to simply gas the birds to death. I’ve never forgotten what Coman-Hidy said when I asked him how he could bear to spend his days negotiating over the finer points of chicken slaughter. “The thought experiment that helped me is if I could die, or have a member of my family die, by being euthanized by gas, or have what I just described happen to them, what would I give to get the gas? And the answer is everything.”
This is activism that does not permit itself the comforts of purity. The Humane League and Mercy for Animals have become, in a way, part of a system they loathe. They are fighting to see farm animals treated in a way that’s far beneath what they believe to be moral, but far above what’s become normal. And they’re succeeding.
Battery cages, for instance, are small cages where egg-laying hens are kept for almost the entirety of their mature lives. According to 2017 guidelines by United Egg Producers, each bird should have 67 to 86 square inches of usable space within the cage. As the Humane League notes, a typical piece of paper is no more than 90 square inches.
The European Union has phased out battery cages and India has declared them illegal. In the United States, California, Colorado, Massachusetts, Michigan, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island, Utah and Washington have either banned them or are in the process of doing so. Dozens of companies have pledged to source only cage-free eggs, including Trader Joe’s, Unilever, Pizza Hut, Mars and Hormel Foods. By no means do these pledges render the lives of these chickens luxe, and many cage-free hens still suffer terribly. There is simply no way to humanely raise so many birds, in such close quarters. But better is better.
Most meat, of course, is produced outside the United States. And so the Humane League founded the Open Wing Alliance, which now has 80 member organizations in 63 countries, to share strategies and drive global campaigns, like the successful effort to convince Yum! Brands to go cage free. Mercy for Animals works in Brazil, India, Hong Kong and Canada.
But amelioration won’t reduce the number of animals being raised in industrial facilities for food. Substitution might. Do you really need a chicken to make a nugget? Or a cow to make a burger? When we slaughter a cow to produce ground beef, we used the cow as a machine to turn the plants the cow ate into meat. The question is whether we can replace the cow with something else that turns plants into meat.
For now, I’d say the plant-based burgers, sausages and nuggets are pretty good, and they’re getting better, fast. There’s no reason a Happy Meal nugget should ever involve a chicken. But there’s a long way to go in mimicking more texturally demanding meats, like bacon or fatty tuna or even steak.
Perhaps those meats can one day be grown directly. This has passed from the realm of science fiction into reality, and I’ve swallowed the evidence. A few months ago, I went to Upside Foods and tried “cultivated” chicken. When I said, a bit awed, that it tasted just like chicken, my hosts laughed and said that’s because it was chicken. They just took chicken cells and grew them into a chicken breast rather than an entire bird.
The question is whether this can be done at scale, for the hundreds of millions of tons of meat we eat. The technical challenges here are real, and some believe them insurmountable. Even if they can be overcome, the political challenges are daunting, too. Meat producers are organizing around the world to try and stop these products from coming to market, and to wrap them in red tape and warning labels if they threaten profits.
But the benefits to directly growing meat, at scale, would be incalculable — and not just for animals. Meat production is a huge driver of climate change, of deforestation and of pandemic and antibiotic risk. Having the meat we love without the health and environmental consequences it now imposes would prevent vast human suffering, too. This should be a moonshot we’re making as a society, but it’s being left, instead, to private capital, and so there’s too little basic science being done, and too many advances are patented and protected.
The Good Food Institute is the most important organization pushing this work. It’s second-to-none in the influence of its public policy efforts, its centrality to the ecosystem of companies and researchers, and its international footprint. It has also been effective at convincing traditional meat companies to explore alternative proteins, which could lead both to important products and turn political enemies into allies. It’s my top recommendation, though I want to note that Animal Charity Evaluators found some cultural turbulence in their staff survey. I’m glad to see that the Institute is taking those concerns seriously.
New Harvest is more directly focused on building the scientific community and funding the research to make cellular agriculture possible. It’s directly focused on the technical challenges of cultivated meat. If those aren’t solved, then all the lobbying efforts in the world won’t matter.
The Material Innovation Initiative is the third on my list. It’s trying to build alternatives to animal-based materials used for fashion, cars and home goods. There has been much less innovation and investment here than in alternative proteins, and that suggests enormous opportunities if an ecosystem of financing and information-sharing and start-ups can be built.
Technological advances, as well as the global desire for cheap meat, have turned this into an age of animal cruelty. But we can also see glimmers of how it might, one day, end. Perhaps we live in the lag between when it became possible to treat sentient animals as industrial inputs and when it will become unnecessary and perhaps even indecent to do so, because we will be able to grow or mimic most meat with less animal involvement, and abusive treatment of animals will be easier to abhor.
But that future is not assured. It must be created, and the Humane League, Mercy for Animals, the Good Food Institute, New Harvest and the Material Innovation Initiative are trying to do just that.
By Laila Soueif, Dec. 17, 2021
Ms. Soueif is a professor of mathematics and the mother of Alaa Abd El Fattah, a political prisoner in Egypt.https://www.nytimes.com/2021/12/17/opinion/alaa-abdel-fattah-egypt-political-prisoners.html
CAIRO — Standing outside the Tora prison complex, where my son is held, a mother asks me: What’s your son in for?
“Politics,” I say.
She looks surprised, not because you can be imprisoned for politics — there’s nothing strange about that in Egypt — but because most political prisoners are Islamists, and she doesn’t think I look like the mother of an Islamist. “He was one of shabab al-thawra, ” I add, the young people of the revolution.
No further explanation is needed.
Why is my son, Alaa Abd El Fattah, in prison? He is one of tens of thousands of political prisoners in Egypt. He has been there for more than seven years, across different governments, with little hope for a way out. He has stood trial many times and will be sentenced again on Monday. His crime is that, like millions of young people in Egypt and far beyond, he believed another world was possible. And he dared to try to make it happen.
Now it seems that the outside world, once so inspired by the Egyptian revolutionaries, is looking away, while democratic governments pay little more than lip service to questions of rights and justice.
Perhaps these words, Alaa’s own, best sum it up:
“We came of age with the second intifada. Took our first real steps in the world as bombs fell on Baghdad. All around us, fellow Arabs cried, ‘Over our dead bodies!’ Northern allies chanted, ‘Not in our name!’ Southern comrades sang, ‘Another world is possible.’ We understood then that the world we’d inherited was dying, and that we were not alone.”
This is from “A Portrait of the Activist Outside his Prison,” an essay he wrote in 2017 that appears in a recent collection of his writings. Now, I have to try and sketch a portrait of the activist inside his prison.
Alaa was arrested in September 2019, against the backdrop of yet another wave of political arrests. He had just finished a five-year sentence, charged with “organizing a protest.” He was rebuilding his life. He had been out for six months on probation, forced to sleep every night in his local police station, when they came for him again. Since then, he has been held in Tora Maximum Security Prison 2. (The conditions in the more draconian Tora Maximum Security Prison 1, where thousands of other prisoners are held, are far worse.)
What he has described to his lawyers and to me is harrowing: On the night he was brought to prison, he was stripped and beaten in a spectacle inmates call the “Welcome Party.” He was threatened not to report it, he told me, but he filed a complaint with the public prosecutor. He is denied any reading material of any kind. He is not allowed a radio. He is not allowed to have a watch. He is not allowed exercise time outside of his cell. He is let out of his cell only for visitations or court appearances. And yet he reports every abuse or violation he has knowledge of, tells us when he hears of missing people appearing in the prison system, filed a report that he could hear someone being tortured in the cell next to his. The officers whom he has reported continue to hold their posts and to have power over him.
Covid restrictions caused prison visits to be suspended for five months. When they were reinstated, they were reduced to one a month, for 20 minutes, with one family member. Visits are behind a glass barrier. We talk through a phone; we assume that everything we say is recorded. Recently, he has been telling me he’s having suicidal thoughts.
When he is on trial, he appears in the courtroom inside a cage. He told me through the bars that he’s going to die in prison. Earlier this year, two men, a journalist named Mohamed Ibrahim and known by his pen name Mohamed Oxygen, and the blogger Abdel Rahman Tarek, known as Moka, tried to take their own lives after spending years being held without charge in what is known as “pretrial detention.” These are just two among countless examples.
Alaa has endured two years of this slow torture, and there is no end in sight.
For most of this time, he has also been held without charge, in pretrial detention. But there has been some international pressure to end the use of these indefinite detentions, so in October he was referred to trial, in a new case, to be heard in an Emergency State Security Court. He is charged, along with Mohamed Oxygen and Mohamed al-Baqer, a human rights lawyer who was arrested while representing Alaa, with spreading false news. The judge refused to let the defense lawyers have a copy of the case file so they could not mount a defense. But we understand Alaa is on trial for retweeting a tweet about a prisoner who died after being tortured, in the same prison where Alaa is now held. Alaa and his co-defendants will be sentenced on Monday. The sentence cannot be appealed.
The pressure that the United States and Europe claim to exert on the Egyptian government to clean up its human rights act is meant only to placate certain portions of their constituents. The Egyptian authorities respond accordingly. They understand that “clean up your human rights act” actually means “we support you, but please try not to embarrass us.” So Egypt recently issued a very self-congratulatory National Human Rights Strategy. Two months later, after a meeting between the U.S. Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken and Sameh Shoukry, his Egyptian counterpart, the United States released a statement saying that it “welcomed the strategy” and plans to “continue the dialogue on human rights.”
Those who truly care about human rights shouldn’t be fooled by written strategies but look for actual deeds: To start, by releasing the generation being slowly murdered in prison for thinking freely and expressing themselves.
Alaa’s words in the essay I quoted above are addressed, in part, to the “Northern allies who chanted, ‘Not in our name!’ as the bombs fell on Bagdad.” People often ask me how they, living in America or Britain or the other countries of the global North, can help. I tell them to scrutinize the foreign policies of their governments as vigorously as they scrutinize domestic policies. Alaa’s answer, always, is this: Fix your own democracy. Safeguard it. There’s no better way to help.
By Jamelle Bouie, Dec. 17, 2021https://www.nytimes.com/2021/12/17/opinion/freedom-liberty-racial-hierarchies.html
It is among the ironies of American history that both the opponents and the defenders of hierarchy cast their views, and their struggles, in terms of freedom and liberty.
Would-be settlers coveting Native lands spoke of their “inalienable rights” to claim Indigenous territories; Southern secessionists declared that theirs was a fight to “secure the blessings of peace and liberty”; and in the 20th century, apologists for segregation framed federal action against it as an attack on the freedom of Americans to do as they please.
“Let us rise to the call of freedom-loving blood that is in us and send our answer to the tyranny that clanks its chains upon the South,” Gov. George Wallace of Alabama declared in 1963 in his now infamous Inaugural Address. “In the name of the greatest people that have ever trod this earth, I draw the line in the dust and toss the gauntlet before the feet of tyranny.”
It is tempting, and easy, to condemn these people as disingenuous and hypocritical, to dismiss their cries for freedom as the hollow rhetoric of self-interested elites. And there are, no doubt, good reasons to take that view. But in a recent book, Tyler Stovall — an award-winning historian of France who died last week at the age of 67 — asks us to consider the idea that to its defenders, hierarchy is a matter of freedom and liberty, and to think about what this means for the concepts themselves.
Specifically, it means that we should think of freedom in at least two ways: a freedom from domination and a freedom to dominate. In “White Freedom: The Racial History of an Idea,” Stovall shows how both are tied up in the history of race and racial thinking. In societies like those of the United States and republican France, he writes, “belief in freedom, specifically one’s entitlement to freedom, was a key component of white supremacy.” The more white one was, he continues, “the more free one was.”
This “white freedom” is not named as such because it is somehow intrinsic to people of European descent, but because it took its shape under conditions of explicit racial hierarchy, where colonialism and chattel slavery made clear who was free and who was not. For the men who dominated, this informed their view of what freedom was. Or, as the historian Edmund Morgan famously observed nearly 50 years ago in “American Slavery, American Freedom: The Ordeal of Colonial Virginia,” “The presence of men and women who were, in law at least, almost totally subject to the will of other men gave to those in control of them an immediate experience of what it could mean to be at the mercy of a tyrant.”
As an ideology, Stovall writes, white freedom meant both “control of one’s destiny” and the freedom to dominate and exclude. And the two moved hand in hand through the modern era, he argues, both here and abroad. In the United States during the early 19th century, for example, the right to vote became even more entangled with race than it had been. “Not only was suffrage extended to virtually all white men by the eve of the Civil War, thus breaking down traditional restrictions based on property and class, it was also and at the same time increasingly denied to those who were not white men,” Stovall writes. “The early years of America as a free and independent nation were thus a period when voting was more and more defined in racial terms.”
After the Civil War, as liberalism began its march through the global order, racial distinctions within polities became more, not less, salient. That was especially true after the forced end of Reconstruction. “The rise of white manhood suffrage along with Black disenfranchisement in the United States exemplified this theme, as did the coterminous expansion of liberal democracy and authoritarian colonial rule in Britain and France,” Stovall contends. “As freedom became increasingly central to white masculine identity in Europe and America, as it increasingly belonged not to elites but to the masses of white people, it seemingly had to be denied to those who were not white.”
Of course, there have always been competing visions of freedom: freedom separate from race hierarchy and freedoms that do not rest on domination. In the 20th century, especially, anticolonial movements within European empires and the struggle for civil rights in America posed what Stovall calls a “frontal challenge to the racialization of liberty.”
If, as Stovall argues, “liberty and whiteness have been mutually reinforcing” throughout Western history and if “racial distinctions have played a key role in modern ideas of freedom,” then the task of all those who seek a more inclusive and egalitarian freedom has been to challenge the hierarchies that have shaped and structured “freedom” as we understand it — along with the material realities that undergird and reinforce them.
What makes Stovall’s work so valuable at this moment, and what makes his death such a heavy loss, is that his study of “white freedom” helps illuminate the stakes of the present and the ongoing struggle over the meaning of American democracy. It is a fight, for some, to be free (or at least more free) of domination and hierarchy, and a fight, for others, to be free to dominate on the basis of those hierarchies.
In April 1864, as the Senate moved to approve the 13th Amendment to the Constitution abolishing slavery, Abraham Lincoln spoke to a crowd in Baltimore about this question of freedom, liberty and democracy. “We all declare for liberty,” he said, “but in using the same word we do not all mean the same thing.” With some, he continued, “the word liberty may mean for each man to do as he pleases with himself, and the product of his labor, while with others the same word may mean for some men to do as they please with other men, and the product of other men’s labor.”
The circumstances of today are vastly different from those of the Civil War, but if Lincoln’s words continue to resonate, it is because the basic shape of the conflict remains much the same. Here is Lincoln again, in the same speech, with a parable that cuts to the heart of the matter. “The shepherd drives the wolf from the sheep’s throat, for which the sheep thanks the shepherd as a liberator, while the wolf denounces him for the same act as the destroyer of liberty,” he said. “Plainly the sheep and the wolf are not agreed upon a definition of the word liberty; and precisely the same difference prevails today among us human creatures, and all professing to love liberty.”
We all want freedom. The question is what we each want to do, for ourselves or to others, with it.
The decision will broaden access to medication abortion, an increasingly common method, but many conservative states are already mobilizing against it.
By Pam Belluck, Dec. 16, 2021https://www.nytimes.com/2021/12/16/health/abortion-pills-fda.html
Lifting the restrictions on mifepristone would make medication abortion more accessible, but in 19 states that have already banned telemedicine visits for abortion pills, women would probably need to travel to states that allow it. Credit...Jeff Roberson/The Associated Press
The federal government on Thursday permanently lifted a major restriction on access to abortion pills. It will allow patients to receive the medication by mail instead of requiring them to obtain the pills in person from specially certified health providers.
The decision, by the Food and Drug Administration, comes as the Supreme Court is considering whether to roll back abortion rights or even overturn its landmark 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade that made abortion legal nationwide.
The F.D.A.’s action means that medication abortion, an increasingly common method authorized in the United States for pregnancies up to 10 weeks’ gestation, will become more available to women who find it difficult to travel to an abortion provider or prefer to terminate a pregnancy in their homes. It allows patients to have a telemedicine appointment with a provider who can prescribe abortion pills and send them to the patient by mail.
Earlier this year, for the duration of the pandemic, the F.D.A. temporarily lifted the in-person requirement on mifepristone, the first of two drugs used to end a pregnancy. The decision to make this change permanent is likely to deepen the already polarizing divisions between conservative and liberal states on abortion. In 19 states, mostly in the South and the Midwest, telemedicine visits for medication abortion are banned, and these and other conservative states can be expected to pass other laws to further curtail access to abortion pills.
Yet other states, like California and New York, which have taken steps in recent years to further solidify access to abortion, are expected to increase the availability of the method and provide opportunities for women in states with restrictions to obtain abortion pills by traveling to a state that allows them.
“It’s really significant,” said Mary Ziegler, a law professor at Florida State University. “Telehealth abortions are much easier for both providers and patients, and even in states that want to do it, there have been limits on how available it is.”
Groups that want to outlaw abortion issued strong statements against the decision.
“The Biden administration today moved to weaken longstanding federal safety regulations against mail-order abortion drugs designed to protect women from serious health risks and potential abuse,” said a statement from the group Susan B. Anthony List. “The Biden administration policy allows for dangerous at-home, do-it-yourself abortions without necessary medical oversight.”
The F.D.A. did not issue a formal statement on Thursday, but it updated a web page to reflect the decision and sent letters about the change to the two companies that make mifepristone and to medical groups that had sued over the requirement.
“The agency conducted a comprehensive review of the published literature, relevant safety and adverse event data, and information provided by advocacy groups, individuals and the applicants to reach this decision,” an F.D.A. spokeswoman said.
The F.D.A. did not ease two other elements of its restrictions on mifepristone, which fall under a program called Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy. One restriction requires patients to sign an agreement acknowledging that their provider has informed them about the drug. The other requires it to be prescribed by a specially certified health provider.
“F.D.A. has determined that certain restrictions continue to be necessary to ensure the safe use of the drug,” the spokeswoman said.
The agency did say Thursday that pharmacies could begin dispensing mifepristone if they became certified by the drug’s manufacturers and if they received the prescription from a certified health provider. Reproductive health experts said they expected further details about pharmacies’ role to be worked out in the coming weeks.
So far this year, presumably in anticipation of such a decision, six states banned the mailing of pills, seven states passed laws requiring pills to be obtained in person from a provider, and four states passed laws to set the limit on medication abortion at earlier than 10 weeks’ gestation, said Elizabeth Nash, the interim associate director of state issues for the Guttmacher Institute, a research organization that supports abortion rights.
Susan B. Anthony List said in its statement that next year, at least seven additional states were likely to enact laws restricting the method.
The current practice is that women who live in states that don’t allow telemedicine for abortion must travel to a state that does — although they don’t have to visit a clinic. They may be in any location within that state for their telehealth visit, even a car, and may receive the pills at any address in the state.
But legal experts said they expected supporters of abortion rights to try to find ways to make the pills available without requiring a patient to travel, including possibly filing legal challenges to state laws banning telemedicine for abortion.
“There’s going to be plenty of people who try to use them in states where they’re illegal without traveling out of state, legal ramifications aside,” said Professor Ziegler. She said such efforts might include clearinghouses that would try to allow “fudging where people’s addresses are to receive it” and a “black market” that might emerge.
In data released last month by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 42 percent of all abortions — and 54 percent of abortions before 10 weeks — occurred with medication in 2019, the most recent year for which C.D.C. data is available. (The report represents most of the country, but does not include data from California, Maryland and New Hampshire.)
In 2020, in some states, including Indiana, Kansas and Minnesota, the method accounted for a majority of abortions, according to state health department reports.
The C.D.C. also reported that 79 percent of all abortions occurred before 10 weeks’ gestation, suggesting that there are many more women who might choose abortion pills over an in-clinic procedure if they could.
Mifepristone was approved in the United States in 2000. The F.D.A. imposed restrictions on the drug, which blocks progesterone, a hormone necessary for pregnancy to develop. The rules allowed patients to take mifepristone in their homes or anywhere they chose once they got it from the certified provider, making it the only drug that the agency required to be obtained in person from a medical provider but that did not need to be taken in the presence of a provider, medical experts say.
The second medication, misoprostol, which causes contractions similar to a miscarriage and is taken up to 48 hours later, has long been available with a typical prescription.
Mainstream medical organizations and abortion rights groups have long urged the government to ease restrictions on mifepristone, citing data indicating that mifepristone is effective and safe, including when dispensed by mail.
For example, a research program that the F.D.A. allowed to provide telemedicine consultations and send pills by mail reported that 95 percent of the 1,157 abortions that occurred through the program between May 2016 and September 2020 were completed without requiring any follow-up procedure. Patients made 70 visits to emergency rooms or urgent care centers, with 10 instances of serious complications, the study reported.
In 2020, medical groups filed a lawsuit asking that the in-person dispensing requirement be lifted because the pandemic meant that patients faced greater risk of being infected with the coronavirus if they needed to visit clinics to obtain abortion pills. A judge granted the request that summer, but, after a challenge by the Trump administration, the Supreme Court reinstated the restriction.
In March, medical organizations tried again, writing to President Biden and Vice President Harris. In April, the F.D.A. decided not to enforce the in-person requirement for the duration of the pandemic, allowing pills to be mailed. The new F.D.A. decision makes the suspension permanent.
The experience since April suggests that more women will seek medication abortion if they do not have to visit a provider for the pills. Abortion on Demand, which formed this spring as one of several organizations that operate websites to arrange telemedicine consultations and to mail pills, has seen steadily increasing interest, said Leah Coplon, Abortion on Demand’s director of clinical operations.
The TelAbortion Project, the research program authorized by the F.D.A. to conduct telemedicine appointments and mail pills, also heard from more women, said Elizabeth Raymond, senior medical associate at Gynuity Health Projects, which runs the program. She said that of 2,083 abortions provided under the program between July 2016 and October 2021, more than a third — 715 — occurred during the pandemic.
Kirsten Moore, director of the Expanding Medication Abortion Access Project, said abortion rights supporters had hoped that the F.D.A. would also lift the other two restrictions related to mifepristone, especially the requirement that providers be certified, because it means that women won’t necessarily be able to get the pills from their regular doctor or clinic.
Still, Ms. Moore said she hoped that the increased availability of medication abortion would help open up appointments for women who need surgical abortions by creating “more room in the abortion ecosystem for patients who need to get into a clinic.”
New York’s attorney general said her office would investigate the man’s death, which followed an altercation in an upstate police station.
By Ed Shanahan, Dec. 16, 2021https://www.nytimes.com/2021/12/16/nyregion/man-catskill-police-stun-gun-dies.html
New York’s attorney general is investigating the death of a 29-year-old man who was badly burned when he was shot with a stun gun after dousing himself with hand sanitizer during an altercation with police officers, officials said on Thursday.
The man, Jason Jones of Catskill, N.Y., died on Wednesday at a Syracuse hospital, where he had been in a burn unit since shortly after the confrontation on Oct. 30 in the village’s police station, a lawyer for his family, Kevin A. Luibrand, said in an interview on Thursday.
Joseph Stanzione, the Greene County, N.Y., district attorney, opened an inquiry into the episode after it occurred. With Mr. Jones’s death, the attorney general, Letitia James, will take the lead in the investigation, Mr. Stanzione said in an interview on Thursday.
“They’ll pick it up at this point,” he said, adding that his office would wait to hear what role, if any, it would play as the investigation proceeds.
In a news release, Ms. James confirmed that her office, which was given the authority to investigate killings by the police under a 2015 executive order, would take over the inquiry.
Mr. Luibrand welcomed Ms. James’s decision to step in, saying it was “inevitable” once Mr. Jones died.
The altercation between Mr. Jones and the Catskill police, first reported last month by The Times Union of Albany, unfolded after a series of events that Mr. Stanzione outlined in the interview.
Police officers responded to a call to a bar near the Catskill police station, Mr. Stanzione said. It was unclear, he said, whether Mr. Jones was involved in whatever prompted the call to the police.
With officers still at the bar, Mr. Jones “made his way” the roughly 400 feet to the police station, and the confrontation there began at around 1:30 a.m., Mr. Stanzione said. Mr. Jones was not in custody when the incident unfolded, Mr. Stanzione added.
At some point, Mr. Jones began to douse himself with hand sanitizer, Mr. Stanzione said.
“For what reason, we don’t know,” he said. “That’s part of the investigation.”
When the officers deployed the stun gun to subdue Mr. Jones, he caught fire, Mr. Luibrand said.
Many hand sanitizers contain ethyl alcohol, which, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “readily evaporates at room temperature into an ignitable vapor and is considered a flammable liquid.” The incidence of fires related to such sanitizers is “very low,” the C.D.C. says, but “it is vital” that they be “stored safely.”
David Darling, the Catskill police chief, did not respond to calls seeking comment on Thursday. He told The Times Union last month that Mr. Jones, a former high school sports standout whom officers knew, appeared intoxicated when he arrived at the police station.
“I think they were afraid he was going to hurt himself, and that’s what started it,” Chief Darling told The Times Union, calling the episode “horrible.”
Mr. Stanzione confirmed on Thursday that video cameras at the police station had captured the episode. Mr. Luibrand said that neither the footage nor any police reports detailing what happened had been provided to him.
“They have shared nothing with us,” he said.
In an investigation of officers’ use of so-called conducted-energy weapons — the best known being the Taser — USA Today and the Arnolt Center for Investigative Journalism at Indiana University found “a pattern of sloppy, reckless and deadly use of the weapon involved in hundreds of deaths and injuries in the past decade.”
Among the deaths detailed in the USA Today report, published in April, was one in 2017 involving a suicidal 39-year-old man in Arlington, Texas, who was shot with a stun gun by officers who had watched him douse himself with gasoline. The electrical currents immediately set the man ablaze and burned down his house, the newspaper reported. He died several days later.
USA Today noted that there are no uniform state or national standards for the use of the weapons, that no federal agency monitors how many deaths or serious injuries occur after their use and that no entity tracks whether law enforcement authorities actually adopt the myriad safety guidelines recommended by manufacturers and police training groups.
Axon Enterprise Inc, which makes the Taser, has said that most deaths involving the weapon are caused by drug use, underlying physiological conditions like heart problems or other types of force that officers use along with the weapon.
Reuters reported in 2019 that the company acknowledges Tasers are “not risk free,” but insists they are “the most safe and effective less-lethal use of force tool available to law enforcement.”
Mr. Stanzione said an autopsy on Mr. Jones was being conducted on Thursday and that the official cause of his death had not yet been determined.
Mr. Luibrand was not waiting for a medical examiner’s ruling.
“The kid was ignited,” he said.