United in Action to STOP KILLER DRONES:
SHUT DOWN CREECH!
Spring Action, 2022
March 26 - April 2—Saturday to Saturday
Co-sponsored by CODEPINK and Veterans For Peace
“In His Defense” The People vs. Kevin Cooper
A film by Kenneth A. Carlson
Teaser is now streaming at:
Posted by: Death Penalty Focus Blog, January 10, 2022
“In his Defense,” a documentary on the Kevin Cooper case, is in the works right now, and California filmmaker Kenneth Carlson has released a teaser for it on CarlsonFilms.com
Just over seven months ago, California Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered an independent investigation of Cooper’s death penalty case. At the time, he explained that, “In cases where the government seeks to impose the ultimate punishment of death, I need to be satisfied that all relevant evidence is carefully and fairly examined.”
That investigation is ongoing, with no word from any of the parties involved on its progress.
Cooper has been on death row since 1985 for the murder of four people in San Bernardino County in June 1983. Prosecutors said Cooper, who had escaped from a minimum-security prison and had been hiding out near the scene of the murder, killed Douglas and Peggy Ryen, their 10-year-old daughter, Jessica, and 10-year-old Chris Hughes, a friend who was spending the night at the Ryen’s. The lone survivor of the attack, eight-year-old Josh Ryen, was severely injured but survived.
For over 36 years, Cooper has insisted he is innocent, and there are serious questions about evidence that was missing, tampered with, destroyed, possibly planted, or hidden from the defense. There were multiple murder weapons, raising questions about how one man could use all of them, killing four people and seriously wounding one, in the amount of time the coroner estimated the murders took place.
The teaser alone gives a good overview of the case, and helps explain why so many believe Cooper was wrongfully convicted.
To: U.S. Senate, U.S. House of Representatives
End Legal Slavery in U.S. Prisons
Sign Petition at:
On the anniversary of the 26th of July Movement’s founding, Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research launches the online exhibition, Let Cuba Live. 80 artists from 19 countries – including notable cartoonists and designers from Cuba – submitted over 100 works in defense of the Cuban Revolution. Together, the exhibition is a visual call for the end to the decades-long US-imposed blockade, whose effects have only deepened during the pandemic. The intentional blocking of remittances and Cuba’s use of global financial institutions have prevented essential food and medicine from entering the country. Together, the images in this exhibition demand: #UnblockCuba #LetCubaLive
Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in organising a local exhibition of the exhibition.
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!
Wrongful Conviction podcast of Kevin Cooper's case, Jason Flom with Kevin and Norm Hile
Please listen and share!
Kevin Cooper: Important CBS news new report today, and article January 31, 2022
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:
New Legal Filing in Mumia’s Case
The following statement was issued January 4, 2022, regarding new legal filings by attorneys for Mumia Abu-Jamal.
Campaign to Bring Mumia Home
In her novel Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston wrote, “There are years that ask questions, and years that answer.”
With continued pressure from below, 2022 will be the year that forces the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office and the Philly Police Department to answer questions about why they framed imprisoned radio journalist and veteran Black Panther Mumia Abu-Jamal. Abu-Jamal’s attorneys have filed a Pennsylvania Post Conviction Relief Act (PCRA) petition focused entirely on the six boxes of case files that were found in a storage room of the DA’s office in late December 2018, after the case being heard before Judge Leon Tucker in the Court of Common Pleas concluded. (tinyurl.com/zkyva464)
The new evidence contained in the boxes is damning, and we need to expose it. It reveals a pattern of misconduct and abuse of authority by the prosecution, including bribery of the state’s two key witnesses, as well as racist exclusion in jury selection—a violation of the landmark Supreme Court decision Batson v. Kentucky. The remedy for each or any of the claims in the petition is a new trial. The court may order a hearing on factual issues raised in the claims. If so, we won’t know for at least a month.
The new evidence includes a handwritten letter penned by Robert Chobert, the prosecution’s star witness. In it, Chobert demands to be paid money promised him by then-Prosecutor Joseph McGill. Other evidence includes notes written by McGill, prominently tracking the race of potential jurors for the purposes of excluding Black people from the jury, and letters and memoranda which reveal that the DA’s office sought to monitor, direct, and intervene in the outstanding prostitution charges against its other key witness Cynthia White.
Mumia Abu-Jamal was framed and convicted 40 years ago in 1982, during one of the most corrupt and racist periods in Philadelphia’s history—the era of cop-turned-mayor Frank Rizzo. It was a moment when the city’s police department, which worked intimately with the DA’s office, routinely engaged in homicidal violence against Black and Latinx detainees, corruption, bribery and tampering with evidence to obtain convictions.
In 1979, under pressure from civil rights activists, the Department of Justice filed an unprecedented lawsuit against the Philadelphia police department and detailed a culture of racist violence, widespread corruption and intimidation that targeted outspoken people like Mumia. Despite concurrent investigations by the FBI and Pennsylvania’s Attorney General and dozens of police convictions, the power and influence of the country’s largest police association, the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) prevailed.
Now, more than 40 years later, we’re still living with the failure to uproot these abuses. Philadelphia continues to fear the powerful FOP, even though it endorses cruelty, racism, and multiple injustices. A culture of fear permeates the “city of brotherly love.”
The contents of these boxes shine light on decades of white supremacy and rampant lawlessness in U.S. courts and prisons. They also hold enormous promise for Mumia’s freedom and challenge us to choose Love, Not PHEAR. (lovenotphear.com/) Stay tuned.
—Workers World, January 4, 2022
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: email@example.com
Sign our petition urging President Biden to grant clemency to Leonard Peltier.
Address: 116 W. Osborne Ave. Tampa, Florida 33603
How long will he still be with us? How long will the genocide continue?
By Michael Moore—VIA Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
American Indian Movement leader, Leonard Peltier, at 77 years of age, came down with Covid-19 this weekend. Upon hearing this, I broke down and cried. An innocent man, locked up behind bars for 44 years, Peltier is now America’s longest-held political prisoner. He suffers in prison tonight even though James Reynolds, one of the key federal prosecutors who sent Peltier off to life in prison in 1977, has written to President Biden and confessed to his role in the lies, deceit, racism and fake evidence that together resulted in locking up our country’s most well-known Native American civil rights leader. Just as South Africa imprisoned for more than 27 years its leading voice for freedom, Nelson Mandela, so too have we done the same to a leading voice and freedom fighter for the indigenous people of America. That’s not just me saying this. That’s Amnesty International saying it. They placed him on their political prisoner list years ago and continue to demand his release.
And it’s not just Amnesty leading the way. It’s the Pope who has demanded Leonard Peltier’s release. It’s the Dalai Lama, Jesse Jackson, and the President Pro-Tempore of the US Senate, Sen. Patrick Leahy. Before their deaths, Nelson Mandela, Mother Theresa and Bishop Desmond Tutu pleaded with the United States to free Leonard Peltier. A worldwide movement of millions have seen their demands fall on deaf ears.
And now the calls for Peltier to be granted clemency in DC have grown on Capitol Hill. Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI), the head of the Senate committee who oversees the Bureau of Indian Affairs, has also demanded Peltier be given his freedom. Numerous House Democrats have also written to Biden.
The time has come for our President to act; the same President who appointed the first-ever Native American cabinet member last year and who halted the building of the Keystone pipeline across Native lands. Surely Mr. Biden is capable of an urgent act of compassion for Leonard Peltier — especially considering that the prosecutor who put him away in 1977 now says Peltier is innocent, and that his US Attorney’s office corrupted the evidence to make sure Peltier didn’t get a fair trial. Why is this victim of our judicial system still in prison? And now he is sick with Covid.
For months Peltier has begged to get a Covid booster shot. Prison officials refused. The fact that he now has COVID-19 is a form of torture. A shame hangs over all of us. Should he now die, are we all not complicit in taking his life?
President Biden, let Leonard Peltier go. This is a gross injustice. You can end it. Reach deep into your Catholic faith, read what the Pope has begged you to do, and then do the right thing.
For those of you reading this, will you join me right now in appealing to President Biden to free Leonard Peltier? His health is in deep decline, he is the voice of his people — a people we owe so much to for massacring and imprisoning them for hundreds of years.
The way we do mass incarceration in the US is abominable. And Leonard Peltier is not the only political prisoner we have locked up. We have millions of Black and brown and poor people tonight in prison or on parole and probation — in large part because they are Black and brown and poor. THAT is a political act on our part. Corporate criminals and Trump run free. The damage they have done to so many Americans and people around the world must be dealt with.
This larger issue is one we MUST take on. For today, please join me in contacting the following to show them how many millions of us demand that Leonard Peltier has suffered enough and should be free:
President Joe Biden
E-mail: At this link
Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland
Attorney General Merrick Garland
E-mail: At this link
I’ll end with the final verse from the epic poem “American Names” by Stephen Vincent Benet:
I shall not rest quiet in Montparnasse.
I shall not lie easy at Winchelsea.
You may bury my body in Sussex grass,
You may bury my tongue at Champmedy.
I shall not be there. I shall rise and pass.
Bury my heart at Wounded Knee.
PS. Also — watch the brilliant 1992 documentary by Michael Apted and Robert Redford about the framing of Leonard Peltier— “Incident at Oglala”
Resources for Resisting Federal Repression
Since June of 2020, activists have been subjected to an increasingly aggressive crackdown on protests by federal law enforcement. The federal response to the movement for Black Lives has included federal criminal charges for activists, door knocks by federal law enforcement agents, and increased use of federal troops to violently police protests.
The NLG National Office is releasing this resource page for activists who are resisting federal repression. It includes a link to our emergency hotline numbers, as well as our library of Know-Your-Rights materials, our recent federal repression webinar, and a list of some of our recommended resources for activists. We will continue to update this page.
Please visit the NLG Mass Defense Program page for general protest-related legal support hotlines run by NLG chapters.
If you are contacted by federal law enforcement you should exercise all of your rights. It is always advisable to speak to an attorney before responding to federal authorities.
State and Local Hotlines
If you have been contacted by the FBI or other federal law enforcement, in one of the following areas, you may be able to get help or information from one of these local NLG hotlines for:
- Portland, Oregon: (833) 680-1312
- San Francisco, California: (415) 285-1041 or 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:
Center for Constitutional Rights
Civil Liberties Defense Center
- Grand Juries: Slideshow
Grand Jury Resistance Project
Movement for Black Lives Legal Resources
Tilted Scales Collective
Worsening heat and dryness could lead to a 50 percent rise in off-the-charts fires, according to a United Nations report.
By Raymond Zhong, Feb. 23, 2022https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/23/climate/climate-change-un-wildfire-report.html?action=click&module=Well&pgtype=Homepage§ion=Climate%20and%20Environment
A landmark United Nations report has concluded that the risk of devastating wildfires around the world will surge in coming decades as climate change further intensifies what the report described as a “global wildfire crisis.”
The scientific assessment is the first by the organization’s environmental authority to evaluate wildfire risks worldwide. It was inspired by a string of deadly blazes around the globe in recent years, burning the American West, vast stretches of Australia and even the Arctic.
The images from those fires — cities glowing under orange skies, smoke billowing around tourist havens and heritage sites, woodland animals badly injured and killed — have become grim icons of this era of unsettled relations between humankind and nature.
“The heating of the planet is turning landscapes into tinderboxes,” said the report, which was published on Wednesday by the United Nations Environment Program.
The report, produced by more than 50 researchers from six continents, estimated that the risk worldwide of highly devastating fires could increase by up to 57 percent by the end of the century, primarily because of climate change. The risks will not be distributed equally: Some regions are likely to see more fire activity, while others may experience less.
It is a stark warning about the increased heat and dryness that human-caused global warming is bringing about. Nations and localities need to prepare better for the dangers, the report’s authors said.
“There isn’t the right attention to fire from governments,” said Glynis Humphrey, a fire expert at the University of Cape Town and an author of the new report. More societies worldwide are learning the value of prescribed burns and other methods of preventing wildfires from raging out of control, she said. Yet public spending in developed nations is still heavily skewed toward firefighting instead of forest management.
In some regions with long histories of brush fires, such as eastern Australia and the western United States and Canada, they have become more intense over the last decade and are ravaging larger areas, the report found. But uncontrolled burning is also starting to occur in places where it had not been common before, such as Russia, northern India and Tibet. In parts of the savannas of sub-Saharan Africa, by contrast, fire activity has declined over the past two decades, partly because drought has killed off more grass.
While climate change is giving rise to more of the record warmth and dryness that have contributed to recent episodes of severe burning, the overall effect on fire risks is complex and can vary from place to place.
Researchers have determined that the extreme heat wave in the Pacific Northwest last year almost certainly would not have occurred without planetary warming caused by greenhouse-gas emissions. Scientists have also found the fingerprints of climate change on brush fires in Australia and extreme heat and burning in Siberia.
But hot weather and weak rainfall can also decrease the amount of vegetation that is available to feed fires. In other places, the decreased humidity can make vegetation more flammable, helping fires spread more easily.
After taking all these factors into account, the report still forecasts a significant increase in the global risk of extraordinary wildfires, even if nations manage to limit emissions of heat-trapping gases.
In a moderate scenario for global warming, the likelihood of extreme, catastrophic fires could increase by up to a third by 2050 and up to 52 percent by 2100, the report estimates. If emissions are not curbed and the planet heats up more, wildfire risks could rise by up to 57 percent by the end of the century.
The increase in burning is projected to be especially large in places including the Arctic, said Douglas I. Kelley, a researcher at the U.K. Center for Ecology & Hydrology who conducted the data analysis for the report. The northern reaches of Russia and North America are already warming much more quickly than the rest of the globe. The intense Arctic fires of 2020 released more polluting gases into the atmosphere that June than in any other month in 18 years of data collection.
In more temperate regions of the United States and Asia, Dr. Kelley said, wildfires could increase as emissions rise because the higher amount of carbon dioxide in the air helps plants grow, resulting in more vegetation to fuel blazes.
The prolonged drought in the American West — the region’s worst, scientists say, in at least 1,200 years — has been helping to spark wildfires earlier in the year. Forecasters are expecting the warmth and dryness to continue into this spring and beyond.
The U.N. report urges governments to become more proactive about fire hazards. Of every dollar spent in the United States on managing wildfires, almost 60 cents goes toward immediate firefighting responses, according to research cited in the report. Much less is spent on reducing fire risks in advance and helping communities recover in ways that could make them more resilient.
Peter Moore, a fire management consultant with the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization and an author of the report, said more countries could learn from Portugal, which drew up an ambitious national fire plan after two blazes killed more than 100 people in 2017. Decades of economic development there had caused a decrease in farmland and an expansion of poorly managed forests, making the landscape highly flammable.
“So when the wrong weather turned up, and then a series of ignitions happened, they had a series of dramatic and catastrophic fire events,” Dr. Moore said. In eastern Australia, western North America, Chile and elsewhere, he said, “those same conditions are starting to occur.”
Not all human development adds to fire risks. In the tropical grasslands of Africa, population density has increased, and farmers have converted more of the area into cropland and pasture. That has fragmented the savannas, making it harder for wildfires to spread. Researchers have used satellite data to estimate that, despite global warming, large decreases in Africa helped the total amount of burned land worldwide fall by a quarter between 1998 and 2015.
Many fires in Africa are set deliberately to clear away vegetation and avert wildfires that would be more severe and less controllable, said Dr. Humphrey of the University of Cape Town. Communities in many places have been managing the land this way for centuries, and the U.N. report calls for such traditional knowledge to be better integrated into fire policies.
Dr. Humphrey said more governments needed to discover, or rediscover, what fire actually is: “something really critical for our planet, but that also needs to be managed.”
While it’s unclear whether the order could be enforced, medical providers and child welfare advocates condemned the move as dangerous.
By Azeen Ghorayshi, Feb. 23, 2022https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/23/science/texas-abbott-transgender-child-abuse.html
Gov. Greg Abbott told state health agencies in Texas on Tuesday that medical treatments provided to transgender adolescents, widely considered to be the standard of care in medicine, should be classified as “child abuse” under existing state law.
His statements, made in a letter to the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, followed an opinion on Friday by Attorney General Ken Paxton that said providing medical treatments like puberty-suppressing drugs and hormones to transgender teenagers should be investigated as child abuse.
Governor Abbott specified that the reporting requirements applied to “all licensed professionals who have direct contact with children who may be subject to such abuse, including doctors, nurses, and teachers, and provides criminal penalties for failure to report such child abuse.”
It is still unclear how and whether the orders, which do not change Texas law, would be enforced. While the state’s child welfare agency has said that it will investigate such claims, some county and district attorneys have stated that they will not enforce the opinion.
“This is a complete misrepresentation of the definition of abuse in the family code,” Christian Menefee, the Harris County attorney, said in an interview. Mr. Menefee said that any such investigations in Harris County, the state’s most populous county, will not be prosecuted. “We don’t believe that allowing someone to take puberty suppressants constitutes abuse,” he said.
Governor Abbott’s effort to criminalize medical care for transgender youth is a new front in a broadening political drive to deny treatments that help align the adolescents’ bodies with their gender identities and that have been endorsed by major medical groups. Twenty-one states introduced such bills last year, according to the Williams Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles, School of Law. Arkansas passed a law making it illegal for clinicians to offer puberty blockers and hormones to adolescents and banning insurers from covering care. But the law was temporarily blocked by a federal judge in July after the American Civil Liberties Union sued on behalf of four families and two doctors.
Several such bills were also introduced in Texas. None passed. Facing political pressure, the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and Children’s Medical Center Dallas closed the state’s only multidisciplinary clinic for transgender youth in November.
The letter from the Texas governor comes as early voting has begun in primary elections across the state. Election Day is March 1. Mr. Abbott and Mr. Paxton, both Republicans, face challengers who have questioned whether they have been sufficiently conservative. Mr. Paxton, a two-term incumbent who has been indicted on securities fraud charges, is seen as particularly vulnerable. Political strategists say he is unlikely to receive more than 50 percent of the vote and is heading for a runoff.
Professional medical groups and transgender health experts have overwhelmingly condemned legal attempts to limit “gender-affirming” care and contend that they would greatly harm transgender young people.
“Gender-affirming care for transgender youth is essential and can be lifesaving,” Adm. Rachel Levine, assistant secretary for health for the Department of Health and Human Services and the Biden administration’s highest-ranking pediatrician, said in an emailed statement. “Our nation’s leading pediatricians support evidence-based, gender-affirming care for transgender young people.”
A growing number of transgender adolescents have sought medical treatments in recent years. Transgender teenagers are at high risk for attempting suicide, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Preliminary research has suggested that adolescents who receive such medical treatments have improved mental health. Long-term studies are ongoing.
Marissa Gonzales, a spokeswoman for the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, said that there were no pending investigations of child abuse involving the procedures described, but that the agency would investigate cases that were reported.
Whether children can be taken from their parents for allowing them to receive such medical care will ultimately be at the discretion of the courts.
“At this moment, it’s unclear what child protective services, prosecutors and judges are going to do with this nonbinding opinion from the attorney general,” Kate Murphy, senior policy associate for child protection at Texans Care for Children, a nonprofit children’s policy group, said in an emailed statement. “What is clear is that politicians should not be tearing apart loving families — and sending their kids into the foster care system — when parents provide recommended medical care that they believe is in the best interest of their child.”
If local attorneys do not pursue cases, the state attorney general’s office could do it, Mr. Menefee, the Harris County attorney, said, adding that the position taken by the governor and the attorney general could have a chilling effect. “It’s designed to make parents scared,” he said. “It’s designed to make doctors scared for even facilitating gender-affirming health care.”
Some treatments used in gender-related care carry medical risks. Puberty-blocking drugs, which suppress the production of testosterone and estrogen, can weaken bone development, though evidence suggests it recovers once puberty starts. If blockers are used at an early stage of puberty and a teenager pursues hormone therapy, the drug regimens can lead to fertility loss. The standards of care for transgender health therefore recommend that patients and their families be counseled on how to preserve fertility by delaying the use of blockers if having children is important to them. The standards also recommend that doctors and families wait until the teenager has reached the age of majority, which is 18 in Texas, before pursuing irreversible genital surgeries.
Some political groups who oppose gender-related treatments for young people say the stakes are simply too high.
“Minors are prohibited from purchasing paint, cigarettes, alcohol, or even getting a tattoo,” Jonathan Covey, director of policy for the group Texas Values, said in an emailed statement. “We cannot allow minors or their parents to make life-altering decisions on body-mutilating procedures and irreversible hormonal treatments.”
Experts who work with transgender patients, like Dr. Alex Keuroghlian, a clinical psychiatrist at Fenway Health in Boston and the director of the Psychiatry Gender Identity Program at Massachusetts General Hospital, say decisions about treatments for young people should be weighed only by a patient, their parents and their physicians. Dr. Keuroghlian denounced Governor Abbott’s letter: “It’s legislating in a manner that is entirely divorced from medical evidence, consensus and mainstream practice.”
Though some doctors have debated how much time should be spent on psychological assessments for adolescents before starting treatment, medical groups broadly agree that puberty suppression and hormones benefit transgender teens.
Erica Anderson, a clinical psychologist and the former president of the United States Professional Association of Transgender Health, has pushed for more assessment for such teenagers before initiating medical treatments. She said that blocking gender-affirming care and forcing teenagers to go through the physical changes of puberty for a gender they don’t identify with was “inhumane.”
“For legislators or politicians to weigh in on an area of medicine for which they have no background is preposterous,” Dr. Anderson said. “People in Texas should be outraged.”
Adri Pérez, a policy and advocacy strategist at the A.C.L.U. of Texas who uses gender-neutral pronouns, called the governor and attorney general’s stance politically motivated and said it could prevent young trans people from getting the medical care they urgently need.
“Gender-affirming care saved my life,” they said in a statement. “Trans kids today deserve the same opportunity by receiving the highest standard of care.”
J. David Goodman contributed reporting.
Brett Hankison, a former Louisville police detective, is facing three charges of wanton endangerment after the authorities said he fired “blindly” into Ms. Taylor’s apartment.
By Giulia Heyward and Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, Feb. 23, 2022https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/23/us/breonna-taylor-brett-hankison-trial.html?action=click&module=Well&pgtype=Homepage§ion=US%20News
The only trial to emerge from the nighttime police raid that killed Breonna Taylor began on Wednesday, but the case centers not on an officer who shot her, but rather on a former police detective accused of recklessly endangering her neighbors with a hail of bullets that inadvertently hit their apartment in Louisville, Ky.
The detective, Brett Hankison, was dismissed several months after the March 2020 raid and is facing three charges of wanton endangerment after firing 10 shots during the operation. The former chief of the Louisville Metro Police Department said that when Mr. Hankison fired “blindly” into Ms. Taylor’s apartment, several bullets entered a neighbor’s apartment, endangering the three people who were sleeping there: a pregnant woman, her husband and their 5-year-old child.
“This is not a case to decide who is responsible for the death of Breonna Taylor,” the state’s assistant attorney general, Barbara Maines Whaley, said during opening statements of a trial that is expected to take about two weeks.
Ms. Whaley said the prosecution’s case would show that the former police detective acted that night with “extreme indifference to human life” and that he made several missteps that endangered the lives of Ms. Taylor’s neighbors, Chelsey Napper and Cody Etherton, as well as their son.
The defense, in its own opening statement, described Mr. Hankison as a veteran police officer who responded appropriately to what he perceived as a threat.
“You are going to discover that this scene was total chaos,” Mr. Hankison’s lawyer, Stew Matthews, told the jury.
When officers broke down the door during the raid that began after midnight, Ms. Taylor’s boyfriend shot one officer in the leg. The boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, later said that he had not heard them announce themselves and believed that they were intruders. Officers returned fire, killing Ms. Taylor.
Mr. Hankison fired 10 bullets into a patio door and window of Ms. Taylor’s apartment without a clear line of sight, and some of them entered the neighboring unit.
While none of Mr. Hankison’s bullets hit anybody, two other officers fired bullets that struck Ms. Taylor, who bled to death after being shot five or six times.
One of her neighbors, Mr. Etherton, described a terrifying barrage of gunfire that hit his apartment.
“To me, a professional, a well-trained officer, should have had the floor plans, the blueprints — they didn’t even know whose back door it was, they didn’t know who lived there,” said Mr. Etherton, the first witness to testify. “That kind of upset me. It was just reckless to me.”
Mr. Etherton said he awoke that night to the sounds of the police ramming Ms. Taylor’s door open. Moments later, bullets pierced their shared wall. As Mr. Etherton walked toward the door, he said, debris pelted him in the face, forcing him to crawl back to the bedroom.
The bullets, he said, were just short of hitting him and his son.
After the shooting stopped, Mr. Etherton moved to the back patio door, where he encountered police officers, guns raised.
During cross-examination, Mr. Matthews questioned the sincerity of Mr. Etherton’s claims of fear, noting that he and other neighbors had filed a lawsuit against the Police Department.
“That hasn’t influenced your testimony here today, correct?” Mr. Matthews asked. “The fact that you’re trying to get some money out of this?”
Both the defense and the prosecution grilled the next witnesses, police officers who had played some part in the nighttime raid, on the details of what happened. This included an officer who had obtained the search warrant for Ms. Taylor’s home and others who had not participated in the raid but were present at the scene, or who had surveilled the apartment beforehand.
One of them, Sgt. Jason Vance, a member of the unit that investigates police shootings, said he met with Ms. Taylor’s family members when they arrived outside the apartment complex.
“There was no doubt — it was clear — that Breonna was still in that apartment, deceased,” he said. “It was a very hard conversation.”
The killing of Ms. Taylor brought renewed scrutiny to no-knock warrants as competing accounts emerged about whether the police had identified themselves before knocking down her door. Officers had initially received a judge’s approval to serve a “no-knock” warrant, but the orders were changed before the raid, requiring them to announce their presence before entering the apartment.
Critics also questioned the justification the police used to obtain a warrant to conduct the raid. The police had told the court they believed they might find evidence of drug trafficking connected to Ms. Taylor’s former boyfriend, saying they believed that he had used her apartment to receive packages linked to drug dealing.
But Ms. Taylor had recently severed ties with him, according to her family’s lawyer, and her ex-boyfriend was already in custody by the time officers raided her apartment. The police also did not have an ambulance stationed in the area, though it was the department’s standard practice to have one nearby.
Since Ms. Taylor’s death, several cities, including Houston and Minneapolis, have restricted the use of no-knock warrants. This month, a Minneapolis police officer shot and killed Amir Locke, a 22-year-old Black man, while serving a no-knock warrant on an apartment downtown.
There were protests in Louisville for more than 100 days by people upset that no officers were charged in Ms. Taylor’s death. After the Kentucky attorney general, Daniel Cameron, announced that his office would not charge either of the two officers who shot Ms. Taylor, the grand jurors who indicted Mr. Hankison said Mr. Cameron had never presented them with that option.
Under Kentucky law, a person commits the crime of wanton endangerment when he or she “wantonly engages in conduct which creates a substantial danger of death or serious physical injury to another person,” and does so “under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to the value of human life.” Other states may use terms like “reckless endangerment” for an equivalent offense.
The crime is a felony and can bring a sentence of up to five years in prison and a fine for each count. Someone can be guilty of wanton endangerment even if the person did not intend to harm anyone or to commit a crime.
By Tim Arango, Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs and Jay Senter
Published Feb. 24, 2022, Updated Feb. 25, 2022https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/24/us/guilty-verdict-george-floyds-rights.html
ST. PAUL, Minn. — Three former Minneapolis police officers were found guilty on Thursday of federal crimes for failing to intervene as another officer killed George Floyd by pressing his knee on his neck for more than nine minutes.
The case was an extraordinarily rare example of the Justice Department prosecuting officers for their inaction while another officer used excessive force. The verdicts signal to police departments across America that juries may become more willing to convict not just officers who kill people on the job, but also those who watch them do it.
A federal jury determined that the officers — Tou Thao, 36; J. Alexander Kueng, 28; and Thomas Lane, 38 — had willfully violated Mr. Floyd’s constitutional rights by not providing medical care when he lost a pulse and that two of them were also guilty of not intervening to stop a fellow officer, Derek Chauvin, from planting his knee on Mr. Floyd’s neck.
Mr. Kueng and Mr. Lane both helped Mr. Chauvin restrain Mr. Floyd while he was handcuffed facedown on the pavement. Mr. Thao stood nearby, keeping bystanders away. Mr. Chauvin was convicted of murder last year and sentenced to 22 and a half years in prison.
The verdicts represented a significant victory for the Justice Department, which under the Biden administration has pledged to be more aggressive in prosecuting civil rights violations. It came days after federal prosecutors secured hate crimes convictions against three white men in Georgia for the murder of Ahmaud Arbery, a Black man whom they chased and killed.
Judge Paul A. Magnuson said he would allow the three men to remain free on bond until their sentencing hearing, which has not yet been scheduled. Mr. Lane and his lawyer shook their heads as the judge read the guilty verdicts; the other two defendants had no visible reaction. All three men and their lawyers were escorted from the courtroom by a U.S. marshal.
Judge Magnuson has wide latitude to impose a penalty and could sentence the officers to any amount of prison time, including life. They still face state charges of aiding and abetting murder, with a trial scheduled for this year. Federal prosecutors had charged Mr. Chauvin along with the other three officers, but he reached a plea agreement with the Justice Department in December under which prosecutors said they would seek a 25-year prison sentence.
Mr. Floyd’s relatives hailed Thursday’s verdict.
“I’m starting to feel like I can breathe again,” said Philonise Floyd, a brother of George Floyd’s.
He and Brandon Williams, George Floyd’s nephew, said in the courthouse after the verdict that they hoped Judge Magnuson would sentence all three officers to the maximum possible prison term.
Legal experts and racial justice activists had been closely watching the case, saying it could have more ramifications for policing than even Mr. Chauvin’s murder convictions. At the heart of this case was a more widespread problem, experts say, than a single officer’s act of violence: the tendency of officers to stand by when they witness a fellow officer committing a crime.
The jurors’ decision, which came after about 13 hours of deliberations following a monthlong trial, suggested that they agreed with the prosecution’s arguments that the officers knew in the moment that Mr. Floyd was in severe medical distress and that Mr. Chauvin was breaking the law. The verdict was also a rejection of the argument cited in each of the three defense cases: that the officers trusted Mr. Chauvin, the senior officer on the scene, and therefore were not aware that what he was doing was illegal.
This case is believed to be the first time police officers have gone on trial for federal charges of failing to intervene against a more senior officer who was using excessive force, according to Christy E. Lopez, a professor at Georgetown University Law Center. She has worked with police departments on training officers about their constitutional duties to step in when they see colleagues breaking the law.
She said the guilty verdicts could significantly change law enforcement culture, compelling agencies to make sure that officers are properly trained and are upholding their duties.
“It forces you to move beyond the bad apple narrative,” Ms. Lopez said. She added, “Now you’re like, ‘Oh, everyone on the scene played a role in this.’ It shifts the entire narrative from misconduct being about just acts of commission to misconduct also being about acts of omission.”
Attorney General Merrick B. Garland said the verdict showed that the officers had violated the Constitution by not intervening.
“The Justice Department will continue to seek accountability for law enforcement officers whose actions, or failure to act, violate their constitutional duty to protect the civil rights of our citizens,” Mr. Garland said in a statement. “George Floyd should be alive today.”
During the trial, the defense lawyers tried to absolve the three officers, with Robert Paule, who represents Mr. Thao, telling the jury during his closing statement that “Just because something has a tragic ending does not mean it’s a crime.”
As Mr. Floyd was being killed, Mr. Thao, a veteran officer who was Mr. Chauvin’s partner, was keeping a crowd of bystanders at bay. Mr. Lane and Mr. Kueng, both rookies, were helping Mr. Chauvin detain Mr. Floyd after a convenience store clerk said he had used a fake $20 bill to buy cigarettes.
All three officers, who along with Mr. Chauvin were fired a day after the killing, were charged with one count of failing to provide medical aid. Mr. Kueng and Mr. Thao were also charged with failing to intervene and stop Mr. Chauvin’s use of force; Mr. Lane, who twice asked Mr. Chauvin if they should roll Mr. Floyd on his side so he could more easily breathe, did not face that charge.
The 12 jurors who decided the case were drawn from across Minnesota because the trial was over federal crimes, and all 12 appeared to be white. That was in contrast to the more racially diverse juries, drawn from the Minneapolis area, that convicted Mr. Chauvin and Kimberly Potter, the white officer in a Minneapolis suburb who shot and killed a Black man after mistakenly drawing her gun instead of her Taser during a traffic stop.
During this trial, prosecutors called to the witness stand doctors, police officers, bystanders and the paramedic who arrived on the scene and said he believed that Mr. Floyd was already dead. Prosecutors relied on the mountains of video evidence — from bystanders, from the officers’ body-worn cameras, from city surveillance cameras — that provided an excruciating second-by-second record of the killing.
One of the most important witnesses was Inspector Katie Blackwell, a Minneapolis police official who formerly was in charge of training. She testified for three days about the training that recruits receive on properly using force and on their constitutional duty to intervene when they see other officers using excessive force.
But the defense lawyers attacked Inspector Blackwell, arguing that the department failed in training officers to recognize when they have a duty to intervene, saying the discussion was perfunctory and “little more than a word on a PowerPoint.”
While cross-examining her, Thomas Plunkett, the lawyer for Mr. Kueng, played the audio of a fiery speech Al Pacino gave while playing a football coach in the movie “Any Given Sunday,” a clip that was played for recruits at the police academy. Mr. Plunkett said his point was that the department promoted a “cops versus the world” mentality.
The defense also tried to focus the jury’s attention on the hierarchical and paramilitary aspects of police culture — how recruits are taught to obey superiors and carry out orders without question.
Unlike Mr. Chauvin, who did not testify at his trial, each of the three officers took the stand in his own defense. They all said that they believed that Mr. Chauvin, as the senior officer, was in charge and knew what he was doing, and that they did not recognize that Mr. Floyd was in the throes of a medical emergency.
“I think I would trust a 19-year veteran to figure it out,” Mr. Thao said. Mr. Kueng, who had Mr. Chauvin as one of his field training officers, said, “He was my senior officer, and I trusted his advice.”
To simplify things for the jury, the prosecutors often used the phrase “in your custody, in your care” to describe the duty that officers have to protect a detained suspect. In Mr. Chauvin’s trial last year, prosecutors similarly condensed their case for the jurors to the slogan “believe your eyes,” arguing it was as simple as what they had seen in the harrowing bystander video.
That video emerged from a group of ordinary citizens, young and old, who by circumstance found themselves witnessing a murder outside a convenience store in South Minneapolis almost two years ago.
Among them was Darnella Frazier, a teenager who was buying snacks with her young cousin and took out her cellphone to film the officers struggling on the ground with Mr. Floyd. Her video was the one that went viral, ricocheting around the world and drawing millions to the streets to protest police brutality and racial injustice.
George Perry Floyd, 46, was a Black security guard and onetime rapper who had lost his job in the coronavirus pandemic. Mr. Chauvin and Mr. Lane are white, Mr. Thao is Asian American and Mr. Kueng is Black.
Throughout the trial, defense lawyers argued that members of the crowd, who over and over told the officers that they were killing Mr. Floyd and that he was struggling to breathe, were distracting to the officers, and possibly threatening.
But prosecutors tried to portray the actions of the onlookers as a powerful counterpoint to what the officers were doing — arguing that if a small crowd of average citizens could see clearly that Mr. Floyd was facing a dire medical emergency, then three well-trained police officers surely should have.
“You just need plain old common sense,” Manda Sertich, a prosecutor, told the jury in her closing argument. “And you just need plain old human decency.”
The trial and its outcome were yet another milestone in nearly two years of upheaval and trauma for the Twin Cities area, with a seemingly endless number of overlapping crises centered on the combustible issues of police brutality and racial injustice.
Ms. Potter’s fatal shooting of Daunte Wright, a 20-year-old man driving to get his car washed, took place as Mr. Chauvin was on trial last April. During this month’s trial, a Minneapolis officer fatally shot and killed Amir Locke, a Black man, as the police carried out a no-knock raid. The killing plunged the city further into turmoil, with more protests and calls for the mayor to resign.
During the four weeks of the trial, family members of Mr. Floyd and his girlfriend, Courteney Ross, who testified at Mr. Chauvin’s trial, were frequently seen in the court’s gallery.
The trial of Mr. Kueng, Mr. Lane and Mr. Thao on state charges of aiding and abetting murder is scheduled for June. During their federal trial this week, state prosecutors who secured Mr. Chauvin’s conviction and are in charge of the state case against the other three officers, were spotted in the audience, taking notes.
Katie Benner contributed reporting.
The examinations by board-certified forensic pathologists will be available for the families of people who died in police-related circumstances.
By Vimal Patel, Feb. 24, 2022https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/24/us/colin-kaepernick-police-autopsy.html
A group founded by the former N.F.L. quarterback Colin Kaepernick started this week to offer free secondary autopsies for families of people who died under “police-related” circumstances.
A certified autopsy can be prohibitive, sometimes costing $5,000 or more, so those without means have had to rely on the official inquiry conducted by a medical examiner or coroner. But proponents of a second autopsy argue that forensic pathology is not an exact science, and that medical experts can have differing opinions that are sometimes colored by bias.
Not having the means for an independent autopsy — a second opinion, in medical speak — prohibits one’s access to equal justice, supporters of Mr. Kaepernick’s initiative said.
“There is definitely a deep-seated subconscious bias — and in some instances a conscious bias — on the part of medical examiners vis-à-vis police-related deaths,” Dr. Cyril H. Wecht, one of country’s most famous forensic pathologists and one of the board-certified examiners who will be conducting autopsies as part of this effort, said in an interview on Thursday.
People distrustful of the often-cozy relationship between coroners and law enforcement officials have long turned to the private sector. Dozens of private-autopsy services, like 1-800-Autopsy in Los Angeles, operate across the country in commercial buildings, laboratories and in the backs of funeral homes.
The concerns over forensic pathology were heightened after the killing of George Floyd in 2020 under the knee of a white Minneapolis police officer.
The Hennepin County medical examiner classified Mr. Floyd’s death as a homicide and listed heart disease, fentanyl and methamphetamine as contributing factors. But forensic pathologists hired by Mr. Floyd’s family said that asphyxia, or deprivation of oxygen, was the cause of death and placed the blame squarely on the police officers involved.
The autopsy initiative is part of Know Your Rights Camp, an activist group founded by Mr. Kaepernick that describes its mission as advancing “the liberation and well-being of Black and Brown communities.”
The group defines a police-related death as one in which an individual “dies as a result of being shot, beaten, restrained, intentionally hit by a police vehicle, pepper sprayed, tasered or otherwise harmed by police officers, whether on-duty or off-duty.”
Some medical examiners have said that, like everyone else, they have biases, but that ample systems are already in place, including courtroom scrutiny of their decisions. The National Association of Medical Examiners did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Dr. Wecht said that a second review would often be in agreement with the first, but it could also serve as a check on the system. He said the biases that could develop among medical examiners are not necessarily sinister but rather the natural product of close working relationships with law enforcement.
“Medical examiners deal with cops all the time,” Dr. Wecht said. “They get their stories from the cops all the time. There’s nothing startling or highly unexpected to be influenced in that fashion by people with whom you work.”
Mr. Kaepernick, as a quarterback of the San Francisco 49ers, started kneeling during the national anthem before N.F.L. games in 2016. He said he wanted to raise awareness of racism, social injustice and police brutality against “Black people and people of color.”
A program official said Mr. Kaepernick was not available for comment on Thursday, but the former quarterback said in a statement that the “prison industrial complex” includes the police and “strives to protect and serve its interests at all costs.”
The autopsy initiative, he said, “is one important step toward ensuring that family members have access to accurate and forensically verifiable information about the cause of death of their loved one in their time of need.”
Brendan Cole, February 24, 2022https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/world/anti-war-protests-break-out-in-russia-condemning-ukraine-invasion/ar-AAUfZZB
Protesters in cities across Russia have risked arrest and voiced their opposition to the invasion of Ukraine by Moscow-led forces.
The OVD-Info rights group, which monitors political arrests in Russia, said that as of Thursday evening, more than 235 people had been detained in 29 cities.
Rallies took place across many time zones, and those detained hailed from cities ranging from from the enclave of Kaliningrad on the edge of Europe to the far eastern city of Vladivostok.
There were also protests in cities including Yekaterinburg, the Siberian city of Novosibirsk and the capital Moscow.
Footage of the protests, which were of varying sizes, were shared on social media and showed people holding signs and chanting "No to war!"
Thomas van Linge, who has been reporting on incidents surrounding the invasion of Ukraine, tweeted footage of what he said was a rally in the city of Tyumen in which he said that "police are busy arresting everyone before it takes off."
One-person picketers are the only form of protest that does not require the prior approval of the authorities. Citing coronavirus restrictions, including on public events, Russia's interior ministry said on television for people to refrain from unsanctioned protests or face arrest.
Independent news outlet Meduza reported that anti-war solo picketers were also popping up in cities across Russia.
Maximillian Alvarez Editor-in-Chief of The Real News Network
—Via an appeal for funds email from The Real News Network, February 25, 2022
It’s started. Russia’s imperialist war on Ukraine has started. Or, rather, especially after the Russian invasion and annexation of the Crimean Peninsula in 2014, the imperialist war has escalated. Or, rather, especially considering the aggressive, U.S.-led, eastward expansion of NATO in the three decades since the fall of the Soviet Union, the clash between imperialist powers has boiled over into a full-fledged armed conflict in which the overwhelming majority of suffering will be borne by Ukrainians. Meanwhile, while all eyes have been fixed on Ukraine, the U.S. military conducted a drone strike in Somalia, Israel’s military fired more missiles on Syria, and the ongoing human rights catastrophe of the Saudi-led, U.S.-backed war continued to rain hellfire down on the starving, battered people of Yemen.
It doesn’t have to be this way, and we should never accept that this is the only way it can be. But, as is always the case, that is precisely what we are being asked—or told—to do right now by all the politicians, pundits, and bloodthirsty ghouls from the military-industrial complex who are relentlessly beating the drums of war. As is always the case, unjust or unnecessary war is thrust upon us and we are told that this is the unavoidable reality of the world we live in and that we need to pick a side. There have been countless depressing, infuriating, and heartbreaking aspects to this week’s events, but it has been especially demoralizing to see so many in the U.S., as if by Pavlovian response, immediately shift into this Hobbesian psychological frame. Regardless of the obvious fact that neither of the major imperialist, nuclear-armed powers involved in this war is the patented “good guy” here, it has felt like the primary concern for so many here in the heart of American empire this week, including many on the left, has been figuring out the correct rhetorical stance to take, as opposed to doing whatever we can to halt the needless bloodshed. But this is not another discourse battle playing out across our computer and phone screens—people are dying. We need to do more, we need to do better, and we need to act now.
None of this pain and death is inevitable…but who’s going to stop it? That is the question we need to be asking ourselves. We will continue working hard at TRNN, and in collaboration with our media partners, to bring our audiences up-to-date news and analysis of the war in Ukraine. We will also be bringing together a range of voices in the coming days and weeks to examine how we got here, what the immediate and long-term repercussions will be, and how we can fight for peace now. In the meantime, as always, please take care of yourselves and take care of each other. We need one another now more than ever. I struggle for a clearer way to articulate what I wrote years ago: “When the web is breaking and the abyss is yawning beneath us, only your hand in mine will keep the world from falling.”
My heart breaks for this stupid, brutal world, but I have faith in us, the people. We have it within our power to save this world and begin anew, but we have to be the ones to do it. No one is coming from offstage to do it for us. As the great Robin DG Kelley recently told me, “We have no choice but to fight.”
Maximillian Alvarez Editor-in-Chief of The Real News Network
—Via an appeal for funds email from The Real News Network, February 25, 2022
London, United Kingdom, By Tony Robinson, February 24, 2022
(Image by Pressenza IPA)
The situation in Ukraine is bringing the world to the brink of a nuclear war. No matter whose propaganda you believe, the USA and Russia have over 10,000 nuclear weapons between them. Never forget that a war fought with even 100 nuclear weapons will destroy human civilization as we know it and devastate all lifeforms on our planet, a situation that will take the planet hundreds of millions of years to recover from.
This is the prospect that faces humanity right now.
This situation in Ukraine need never have happened. It was so avoidable.
At the end of the Cold War, when the Berlin Wall fell together with the Warsaw Pact and the Soviet Union, there was a perfect opportunity to build a new world order of peace. NATO should have been disbanded and peace treaties signed among all the states of Europe, including Russia and all the former Soviet Socialist Republics. The European Union had the chance to integrate a continent from Lisbon to Vladivostok.
But this was not in the interests of the biggest oligarchs on the planet: those who control the US military industry and the political establishment in Washington. In reality, neither was it in the interests of the oligarchs in the former Soviet Union whose positions in the Russian establishment were also under threat from peace breaking out, nor the European oligarchs who have enriched themselves endlessly at the expense of the poorest in society. These oligarchs whose apparatus includes the military and political establishment, the media, the banking system, and academia, use the tool of “blood and soil” nationalism in order to manipulate their populations, dehumanise people of other nations and cultures, and create the consent needed to have them murdered.
The biggest casualty of this war so far has not been a human being but a pipeline. The Nord Stream II project has been suspended, leaving Germany with no alternative at such short notice but to seek fuel supplies from the USA and elsewhere.
But why is this war about fossil fuels? Surely the world should be transitioning to sustainable, green energy forms? This is why we know that the war is among oligarchs and not between peoples. The oligarchs don’t make the huge sums of money from a planet run on renewable sources as they do from a planet dependent on fossil fuels. The planet could have transitioned the majority of its energy use to renewables decades ago. We could already be a carbon-neutral planet. Imagine if the money invested in wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Serbia, Yemen, Libya, Syria and elsewhere would have been used for that! We wouldn’t be talking now about Ukraine, that’s for sure.
This conflict is not a war between Putin and Biden. It is a war of one set of oligarchs against another set of oligarchs all intent on gaining territory on which human beings live and work, so that those oligarchs can extract profits from those human beings.
As members of the human species that lives so precariously on this rock travelling through the universe at nearly 500,000 miles per hour, we have to do better.
There are political parties and movements out there that are formed on platforms that put the well-being of all living beings as the central concern, that renounce war as a means to resolve dispute, that hold to the principles of the United Nations Charter. And if there aren’t they can be founded.
It is time for the people of world to stand up, organize themselves, learn that other human beings are not their enemies but people just like themselves who want to live a life of happiness in peace and security.
It is time to say no to war and to give peace a chance. But more than that, it’s time for action.
Despite the Kremlin’s efforts to obscure the offensive in Ukraine, the costs of the war were already evident in both economic and social turmoil.
By Anton Troianovski and Ivan Nechepurenko, Feb. 26, 2022https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/26/world/europe/russian-economy-ukraine-war.html
Police officers detained an anti-war protester in Moscow on Friday. Credit...Sergey Ponomarev for The New York Times
MOSCOW — President Vladimir V. Putin has ushered in a crisis for his country — in its economy and identity.
The Kremlin is hiding the reality of the country’s attack on Ukraine from its own people, even cracking down on news outlets that call it a “war.”
But the economic carnage and societal turmoil wrought by Mr. Putin’s invasion is becoming increasingly difficult to obscure.
Airlines canceled once-ubiquitous flights to Europe. The Central Bank scrambled to deliver ruble bills as the demand for cash spiked 58-fold. Economists warned of more inflation, greater capital flight and slower growth; and the S&P credit rating agency downgraded Russia to “junk” status.
The emphasis on hiding the war’s true extent was a sign that the Kremlin fears that Russians would disapprove of a violent, full-scale invasion of Ukraine, a country where many millions of Russians have relatives and friends.
Even so, more public figures with ties to the state spoke out against the war, including a lawmaker in Russia’s rubber-stamp Parliament. Business owners tried to assess the consequences of an economic crisis that appeared already to be beginning, even before sanctions were fully in place.
Facing the greatest test yet of its reality-distorting prowess, the Kremlin’s propaganda machine for the moment appeared to be keeping widespread opposition to the war in check. There were no signs that the war could undermine Mr. Putin’s hold on power, and in the event of a speedy victory, analysts noted, it could end up strengthening it.
But the enormous risks of the war, along with the economic pressure the country was suddenly under, have created a new and more treacherous reality for both the Kremlin and Russia’s 145 million people.
Russians have been stunned at how quickly the economic impact of the war was being felt. The ruble hit its lowest level ever against the dollar, which traded at about 84 rubles on Saturday compared to 74 a few weeks ago. That sent prices for imports surging, while sanctions on Russia’s largest banks wreaked havoc in the financial markets and new export restrictions promised to scramble supply chains.
“Those who shout that Putin is great and bravo to him are no longer shouting as loud,” said Lalya Sadykova, the owner of a chain of beauty salons in St. Petersburg. “They’re in shock from what is happening, from how quickly prices are changing and how suppliers are stopping deliveries.”
The chief executive of one of Russia’s biggest electronics retailers, DNS, said on Thursday that a supply crunch had forced his chain to raise prices some 30 percent. Days earlier, the chief executive, Dmitri Alekseyev, had posted on Facebook: “For the life of me I can’t understand why Russia needs a war.”
“I understand that the prices in stores provoke frustration,” Mr. Alekseyev wrote. “But that’s the reality.”
S7, Russia’s second-largest airline, suspended all of its flights to Europe because of airspace closures to Russian companies, an early sign that the cheap and easy travel to the West that middle-class Russians had grown used to could become a thing of the past. Photos of retailers changing or removing their price tags went viral on social media.
“We’re all waiting for what happens next,” said Anastasia Baranova, describing a wave of cancellations on Friday at the hotel she runs in St. Petersburg. “It’s as though the whole country is on pause.”
The Kremlin rushed to maintain its narrative, signaling the start of a new and more brutal phase in its long-running crackdown on dissent. The government’s communications regulator slowed down access to Facebook and warned 10 Russian news outlets that their websites could be blocked. The outlets’ declared offense was publishing articles “in which the operation that is being carried out is called an attack, an invasion or a declaration of war.”
Even as a vicious battle for Kyiv unfolded on Saturday morning, a Russian Defense Ministry statement about the situation in Ukraine made no mention of the Ukrainian capital or any Russian casualties. The ministry, which typically releases sleek and copious footage daily of the Russian military in action, published no videos of its combat operations in Ukraine.
And Russia’s state-run news channel on Saturday showed footage of a peaceful day in Kyiv to try to counter the videos of violence spreading on the social network Telegram.
“As you can see, the situation in the cities is calm,” the anchor said. “No explosions, no bombings, unlike what some of the Telegram channels are writing.”
A hint of the potential opposition came on Saturday when Mikhail Matveyev, a Communist lawmaker who had voted to endorse Mr. Putin’s recognition of the Russian-backed separatist territories, wrote on Twitter that he had been tricked.
“I was voting for peace, and not for war,” he wrote, “and not for Kyiv to be bombed.”
It was a rare crack in the firmament of the Parliament, where dissent over Mr. Putin’s key foreign policy decisions has been virtually nonexistent in recent years. Tatyana Yumasheva, the daughter of former President Boris N. Yeltsin who helped bring Mr. Putin to power, posted an antiwar message on Facebook.
The Garage Museum of Contemporary Art in Moscow, a sleek showcase of a Westward-looking Russia founded by the Kremlin-friendly oligarch Roman Abramovich, declared it would cease working on new exhibits until the “human and political tragedy” ceased in Ukraine.
“We cannot keep up the illusion of normality,” the museum said. “We see ourselves as part of a greater world that is not broken up by war.”
Still, it appeared on Saturday that the Kremlin’s enforced blinders were doing their job, as were the clear dangers of voicing dissent. The spontaneous antiwar rallies that brought several thousand people to the streets in cities across the country on Thursday, with more than 1,500 arrests, were not repeated at that scale on Friday.
While many in Russia’s intellectual elite voiced horror and the fence across from the Ukrainian embassy in Moscow filled up with flowers, there was little evidence of a broader groundswell of opposition.
“The propaganda is working very well,” said Anastasia Nikolskaya, a Moscow sociologist. “It’s not that anyone is welcoming the war, but it is being seen as a last-ditch measure that is necessary.”
The main determining factor for what comes next, of course, will be what happens on the battlefield in Ukraine — the longer the war lasts and the greater the loss of life and destruction, the more difficult it will be for the Kremlin to cast the war as a limited operation not directed against the Ukrainian people.
Andrei Kortunov, director general of the Russian International Affairs Council, a research organization close to the Russian government, said he believed that the Kremlin expected the fighting to last no more than two weeks.
If Russia forced a capitulation of the Ukrainian army within that time, with limited destruction and limited Russian and civilian casualties, Mr. Kortunov said, Mr. Putin should be able to count on continuing domestic support.
But if the war does not go according to plan, Mr. Kortunov cautioned, the country could see “serious political consequences and consequences for the popularity of the leadership.”
“Victory will write off a lot — not everything, but a lot,” Mr. Kortunov said. “If there is no victory, then there may be some complications because of course, many doubt that there were no other policy alternatives.”
There were indications that recent days were only the beginning of a new chapter in Mr. Putin’s conflict with the West and of his crackdown on freedoms at home. Dmitri A. Medvedev, the vice chairman of Mr. Putin’s security council, speculated in a social-media post on Saturday that Russia might reintroduce the death penalty or seize foreigners’ assets in Russia as a response to Western sanctions.
“The interesting part is only beginning … ,” he wrote.
Despite the economic pain, sanctions are unlikely to alter Russia’s course in the near term, analysts say. Russia has the reserves to prop up the ruble, and the Kremlin has worked to insulate the economy from external shocks since it was hit by sanctions over the annexation of Crimea in 2014.
The real cost of sanctions will be Russia’s long-term development, said Yevgeny Nadorshin, chief economist at the PF Capital consulting company in Moscow. Incomes will further stagnate, and the country’s middle class will continue shrinking. Many of the country’s manufacturers that launched the production of modern trains, cars and other products over the past decade will face serious trouble if the West bans technology exports to Russia, he said.
The country will be stable, Mr. Nadorshin said. However, he added, this stability “will resemble a swamp where nothing happens and changes even as forests burn around it.”
“Some reeds will bloom in this swamp, but there will only be scorched land around it,” said Mr. Nadorshin. “You can get into that swamp, but you will get stuck in it and you may eventually drown.”
And beyond the economic impact of the war, many Russians could not yet imagine coming to terms with living in a country that had launched an unprovoked assault on its neighbor. A steady stream of people came to the Ukrainian embassy in Moscow on Friday, bringing flowers. A police officer prevented a woman from also leaving a small sign that said: “Yes to peace.”
“I fear meeting Ukrainians and looking them in the eye,” said a designer, Aleksei, 28, declining to give his last name for fear of repercussions from the security services. “That is the scariest thing of all.”
Alina Lobzina and Oleg Matsnev contributed reporting from Moscow.
Leonard Peltier, sentenced to two life terms 45 years ago in the shooting of two F.B.I. agents, is now 77 and in poor health.
By Mark Walker, Feb. 26, 2022https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/26/us/politics/leonard-peltier-clemency-native-american.html
WASHINGTON — Since 1977, Leonard Peltier, a Native American activist, has been serving two life sentences in federal prison for his role in the killings of two F.B.I. agents during a shootout in 1975 on the Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota — a punishment that his supporters have long held was the product of an unfair prosecution and a flawed trial.
Now his backers, including members of Congress, are making what they consider a last-ditch effort to win clemency for Mr. Peltier, who is 77 and suffering from diabetes, hypertension, partial blindness from a stroke, and an aortic aneurysm. Mr. Peltier, who many Native American activists consider a political prisoner, also recently tested positive for the coronavirus.
Efforts to overturn his conviction over the years have failed, as have campaigns for a pardon or commutation of his sentence. Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama both left office without acting on pleas to grant him clemency, Mr. Clinton after hundreds of former and current F.B.I. agents angrily marched to the White House to protest his considering such a move and the bureau’s director at the time made his opposition clear.
Representative Raúl M. Grijalva, Democrat of Arizona, has sent letters to the White House on Mr. Peltier’s behalf, including one last month after he tested positive for Covid-19. That letter was signed by eight other members of Congress. Mr. Peltier’s lawyer is also pursuing the issue through the regular clemency process at the Justice Department.
It is not clear whether President Biden would consider the clemency request. The White House did not respond to a request for comment. The F.B.I. declined to comment on whether it would now oppose commuting Mr. Peltier’s sentences.
Mr. Peltier’s fight for freedom has long drawn support from global activists and celebrities, including Nelson Mandela, the Dalai Lama, and the actors Robert Redford and Danny Glover.
Alli McCracken Jarrar, a human rights campaigner with Amnesty International, said the organization had campaigned for Mr. Peltier’s release for years, hoping to undo what the organization considered an abuse of the criminal justice system.
“For the last 44 years, prominent individuals and prominent organizations have called on president after president to grant him clemency,” she said. “It is long past due for him to be given clemency, so he can live the remaining years of his life with his community.”
Mr. Peltier grew up on the Turtle Mountain Indian Reservation in North Dakota; members of the tribe say they will take care of him if he is released.
The deadly confrontation that put Mr. Peltier in prison took place at a ranch on the Pine Ridge reservation, about 10 miles from Wounded Knee, where U.S. soldiers had massacred hundreds of unarmed Lakota nearly a century earlier.
Native American activists returned to occupy the village during a drawn-out protest in 1973, in hopes of forcing the federal government to investigate what they said was corruption in the leadership of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, treaty violations and problems with the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
Two F.B.I. agents, Jack Coler and Ronald Williams, died in the shootout. One of the activists was also killed, but his death was never investigated.
Mr. Peltier belonged to the American Indian Movement, which sought to draw attention to federal violations of Native American treaty rights; he was found guilty of the killings in 1977 and has since been in federal prison, currently in Florida.
He has admitted to participating in the shootout in self-defense, but says he did not kill the agents. He and his supporters also say that F.B.I. agents coerced witnesses, and that prosecutors withheld exculpatory evidence while extraditing Mr. Peltier from Canada and trying him in North Dakota.
Mr. Peltier’s arrest came at a time of intense unrest on the Pine Ridge Reservation.
On Feb. 27, 1973, Oglala Lakota activists and members of the American Indian Movement seized control of Wounded Knee to draw attention to the federal government’s violations of the treaty rights and a tribal president accused of corruption and aligning with the federal government.
The resulting 71-day armed conflict between Native Americans and federal law enforcement at Wounded Knee left two activists dead, and a federal agent shot and paralyzed.
Even after the siege, conflict on the Pine Ridge Reservation continued. Murders were frequent, and the federal and tribal police forces on the reservation behaved like a paramilitary force. Then came the shootout on the Pine Ridge reservation in 1975, where the two F.B.I. agents and a Native American activist were killed, resulting eventually in the charges against Mr. Peltier and two others implicated in the deaths of the agents.
Mr. Peltier’s co-defendants were found not guilty of murdering the agents after they argued self-defense. They were tried in Iowa, while Mr. Peltier was tried in North Dakota, where the judge blocked some evidence that was allowed in the Iowa case.
Years of appeals have poked holes in the government’s case against him, Mr. Peltier’s supporters say.
His conviction rests solely on the fact that he was present at the shootout with a weapon that day — not that he fired a fatal shot or had any hand in killing anyone, said James Reynolds, a former U.S. attorney in Iowa whose predecessor, Evan Hultman, handled the original prosecution of Mr. Peltier.
Mr. Reynolds is among those who have lobbied for Mr. Peltier’s release, writing letters to both the Obama and Trump administrations. He said that, while the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit found Mr. Peltier had a fair trial, he no longer believed that to be the case.
“How much stuff does he need to have on his side before you say enough is enough,” Mr. Reynolds said. “They’ve been fighting this thing for more than 40 years and it seems unfortunate this is the government position.”
Kevin Sharp, Mr. Peltier’s lawyer, said granting him clemency could be a major step toward healing the rift between Native Americans and the federal government.
“The important thing is breaking from the past,” Mr. Sharp said. “The F.B.I. will say they are no longer the J. Edgar Hoover F.B.I. I believe them when they say that. But if you really want to break from the J. Edgar Hoover F.B.I., they need to release this prisoner.”
Ruth Anna Buffalo, a citizen of the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara Nation, and a state representative in North Dakota, was among two dozen Native American state legislators who signed a letter to Mr. Biden in October requesting clemency of Mr. Peltier.
She said the president had yet to include Native Americans in his administration’s efforts to overhaul aspects of the federal justice system. Granting clemency to Mr. Peltier would be a step in the right direction, she said.
“We are not asking for special treatment,” Ms. Buffalo said. “We are asking to be treated as human beings. None of us are free until Leonard is free.”
Editorial by world-outlook.com, February 27, 2022
Maps showing U.S.-led NATO expansion into eastern Europe (left) and NATO’s military buildup in the region.
Moscow’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine is anathema to humanity. Russian troops, tanks, air force, and other military hardware should get out now. The Ukrainian people defending the country’s independence deserve international solidarity—already shown by protests condemning the invasion inside Russia; in Tbilisi, Georgia; and elsewhere.
It is also necessary to clearly see Washington’s hypocritical claims that it tried to avert war through diplomacy. We should demand that U.S. and NATO military forces pull out of eastern Europe and the broader region. The Pentagon has doubled the number of U.S. warships in the Mediterranean, redeployed an aircraft carrier there from the Pacific, and increased the number of U.S. troops in the area. It is opening up new NATO bases in eastern Europe. The newest, a “highly sensitive U.S. military installation” according to the New York Times, located near the village of Redzikowo, in Poland, is only about 100 miles from Russian territory.
These moves are aimed at expanding U.S. military domination in Europe and countering Russian economic interests, including growing exports of natural gas to Europe (Russia is a top producer of natural gas and oil, accounting for 17 percent of the world’s natural gas and 12 percent of its oil.) The U.S./NATO actions pose a genuine threat to world peace while offering Putin a pretext for his brutal invasion.
The Russian attack on a sovereign neighboring republic smacks of the Great Russian chauvinism prevalent under the czars, the barbaric monarchy that ruled the Russian empire for centuries before it was overthrown by workers and peasants in 1917. That same chauvinism animated the reactionary policies re-established by the late 1920s in the former USSR (Union of Soviet Socialist Republics) during the counterrevolution led by Joseph Stalin—a regime Russian president Vladimir Putin faithfully served as a former officer of the KGB, the secret police.
On February 21, Putin declared that the Moscow-backed “People’s Republics” of Donetsk and Luhansk set up in eastern Ukraine in 2014 were independent countries and ordered Russian troops to go in as “peacekeepers.” The Kremlin’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine followed, in the largest military mobilization in Europe since World War II.
In a speech the same day crafted to justify the onslaught, Putin denied that Ukraine is a nation and blamed the Bolshevik revolution for the country’s independence. “Modern Ukraine was entirely and fully created by Russia, more specifically the Bolshevik, communist Russia,” Putin said. “This process began practically immediately after the 1917 revolution, and moreover Lenin and his associates did it in the sloppiest way in relation to Russia—by dividing, tearing from her pieces of her own historical territory.”
Putin is lying. The contrast between the position of Putin and Russia’s capitalists today, with that of the workers and peasants’ government V.I. Lenin led after the Russian Revolution, is crystal clear.
In December 1919, Lenin wrote to the Ukrainian workers and peasants:
“The independence of the Ukraine has been recognized both by the All-Russia Central Executive Committee of the R.S.F.S.R. (Russian Socialist Federative Soviet Republic) and by the Russian Communist Party (Bolsheviks). It is therefore self-evident and generally recognized that only the Ukrainian workers and peasants themselves can and will decide [emphasis added] at their All-Ukraine Congress of Soviets whether the Ukraine shall amalgamate with Russia, or whether she shall remain a separate and independent republic, and, in the latter case, what federal ties shall be established between that republic and Russia.
“How should this question be decided insofar as concerns the interests of the working people and the promotion of their fight for the complete emancipation of labor from the yoke of capital?…
“[T]he interests of labor demand the fullest confidence and the closest alliance among the working people of different countries and nations. The supporters of the landowners and capitalists, of the bourgeoisie, strive to disunite the workers, to intensify national discord and enmity, in order to weaken the workers and strengthen the power of capital.”
The “national discord and enmity” Lenin warned about so clearly is precisely what both Putin and U.S. president Joe Biden and his allies are spreading today.
Moscow aims to reassert the Russian industrialists’, bankers’, and landowners’ control of Ukraine, as well as over other eastern European territories that achieved independence after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, followed by the re-establishment of capitalism in the former USSR. Moscow is also pushing back against the U.S.-led NATO expansion in eastern Europe.
NATO was established in 1949 to codify and maintain Washington’s military superiority in western Europe when the U.S. emerged as the main victor in World War II and the world’s top imperialist power. As the Cold War ended, NATO’s importance appeared to wane. But Washington breathed new life into the reactionary military alliance in the 1990s over the blood and bones of the people of Yugoslavia, fueling a decade-long war in that country that led to its break-up. It then used Yugoslavia’s destruction as a launching pad to expand NATO eastward by admitting 14 new member states, more than doubling its roster by 2020.
During the Cold War, Russia and the United States both worked on developing antimissile defenses. In 1972 both agreed to halt their rocket shield programs. But in 2001 U.S. president George W. Bush infuriated Putin by pulling out of the 1972 Antiballistic Missile Treaty and directing the Pentagon to build and deploy such a system in eastern Europe, under the flimsy pretext it was targeting Iran. New U.S. military bases such as the one in Poland, as well as another in Romania, are now becoming operational housing anti-missile launchers. This offers an edge to U.S. forces in shooting down Russian ballistic missiles, increasing the possibility of further military conflagrations.
None of this justifies Putin’s invasion. But it points to Washington’s hypocrisy in claiming to seek a “diplomatic solution” to the current crisis. U.S. president John F. Kennedy brought the word to the brink of nuclear war in October 1962 when Moscow stationed nuclear missiles for defensive purposes in Cuba. Would Washington accept military bases, like those it is now establishing in Poland, to be set up today by Russia in Mexico, 100 miles from the U.S. border?
That’s why working people should demand not only the immediate withdrawal of Russian troops from the Ukraine but also the simultaneous pullout of all U.S. and NATO forces from eastern Europe.
The sanctions Washington and its allies are imposing against Russia will do little to deter Putin’s invasion, which is backed by China, while they will mostly hurt working people inside Russia and elsewhere in Europe.
Working people in the Ukraine can best defend their aspirations by their own mobilizations and actions, as they did in the Maidan revolt of 2014.
 From V.I. Lenin’s December 1919 Letter to the Workers and Peasants of the Ukraine. Lenin’s 1919 entire “Letter to the Workers and Peasants of the Ukraine” can be found here:
 For an explanation of how Washington fueled the war in Yugoslavia and used it to expand NATO eastward see “How U.S. Imperialism Fueled Yugoslav War” published in the April 19, 1999, issue of The Militant newspaper.