Bay Area United Against War Newsletter, February 9, 2022




United in Action to STOP KILLER DRONES:   



Spring Action, 2022


March 26 - April 2—Saturday to Saturday


 Co-sponsored by CODEPINK and Veterans For Peace





Screenshot of Kevin Cooper's artwork from the teaser.


 “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:








Español  Português

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 art@thetricontinental.org if you are interested in organising a local exhibition of the exhibition.



Kevin Rashid Johnson is Back in Virginia!


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!

Major Tillery and his family have set up a new Change.org petition to submit to the Board of Pardons in support his petition to commutation of his sentence to parole while maintaining his legal fight for exoneration and overturning of his conviction.
Major's commutation petition focuses on both his factual innocence as well as his decades of advocacy for other prisoners while serving almost 40 years as a lifer, over 20 of those years in solitary.

Please circulate and support the petition:





Kevin Cooper: Important CBS news new report today, and article January 31, 2022


Great news for Kevin Cooper, an innocent man 

on San Quentin's death row:




Contact: Governor's Press Office


Friday, May 28, 2021


(916) 445-4571


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

By Johanna Fernández

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.”



Demand Mumia's Freedom:

Governor Tom Wolf -1(717) 787-2500  Fax 1 (717) 772-8284
Office of the Governor
508 Main Capitol Building
HarrisburgPA  17120    
After calling the governor, send an online communication about our concerns.   https://www.governor.pa.gov/contact/#PhoneNumber
Let us know what there response was, Thank you.  Mobilization4Mumia@gmail.com


Questions and comments may be sent to: info@freedomarchives.org



This beautiful and powerful exhibit is ongoing 

and can be viewed online at:



A Plea for the Compassionate Release of 

Leonard Peltier

Video at:


Screen shot from video.

Sign our petition urging President Biden to grant clemency to Leonard Peltier.




Email: contact@whoisleonardpeltier.info

Address: 116 W. Osborne Ave. Tampa, Florida 33603


Bury My Heart with Leonard Peltier

How long will he still be with us? How long will the genocide continue?

By Michael Moore

—VIA Email: michaelmoore@substack.com

LEONARD PELTIER, Native American hero. An innocent man, he’s spent 44 years as a political prisoner. The prosecutor who put him behind bars now says Peltier is innocent. President Biden, go to Mass today, and then stop this torture. (Sipa/Shutterstock)

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


Phone: 202-456-1111

E-mail: At this link



Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland


Phone: 202-208-3100

E-mail: feedback@ios.doi.gov


Attorney General Merrick Garland


Phone: 202-514-2000

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.

Emergency Hotlines

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: 

National Hotline

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. 

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 Jury Resistance Project

Katya Komisaruk

Movement for Black Lives Legal Resources

Tilted Scales Collective






1) Minneapolis Suspends No-Knock Warrants After Police Killing

Amir Locke, 22, was fatally shot as the police carried out a search warrant. He was lying under a blanket until an officer kicked the couch, revealing a gun, body camera video shows.

By Jesus Jiménez and Amanda Holpuch, Feb. 3, 2022

A screenshot from body camera footage of Minneapolis police officers entering an apartment with a warrant before fatally shooting a man.

A screenshot from body camera footage of Minneapolis police officers entering an apartment with a warrant before fatally shooting a man. Credit...Minneapolis Police Department

Mayor Jacob Frey of Minneapolis on Friday announced a moratorium on no-knock warrants one day after the Police Department released body camera footage of its SWAT team fatally shooting a man who was lying on a couch under a blanket during an early-morning raid.


The man who was killed, Amir Locke, 22, had a gun in his hand, but it is unclear whether he was aware that police officers had entered the apartment shortly before 7 a.m.


Keith Ellison, the attorney general of Minnesota, who led the prosecutions of former police officers in the killings of George Floyd and Daunte Wright, said his office would join a review of the police shooting. The mayor said no-knock warrants could not be requested or conducted while the city evaluated its current policy.


The graphic and brief video released by the Police Department on Thursday night shows the encounter from Wednesday morning, when its SWAT team had been carrying out a warrant for the Saint Paul Police Department’s homicide unit.


In the video, an officer is seen quietly turning a key in the apartment door before officers file in and begin to yell.


“Police! Search warrant!” several officers are heard shouting.


“Hands, hands!” one officer says.


“Get on the ground!” another yells.


One officer kicked the back of the couch, jarring Mr. Locke and making a gun visible. The police fired at least three times in response.


The entire encounter took less than 10 seconds.


In a news release published the day of the shooting, the Police Department said officers had performed emergency aid on Mr. Locke, who died at a nearby hospital.


“I’m under no illusion that processing this video will be easy,” Amelia Huffman, the city’s interim police chief, said at a news conference on Thursday. “It won’t be. It shouldn’t be. These are wrenching videos to watch. They’re painful, but it’s necessary.”


Chief Huffman said that officers had a warrant for three locations in the apartment complex, and that Mr. Locke was not named in the original warrant.


Mr. Ellison, the state attorney general, said on Friday that his office would partner with the Hennepin County attorney’s office to review the shooting.


“Amir Locke’s life mattered,” Mr. Ellison said in a statement, promising the Locke family “a fair and thorough review.”


Mr. Ellison led the prosecution of Derek Chauvin, a former Minneapolis police officer who pleaded guilty to federal crimes for the killing of Mr. Floyd, and Kimberly Potter, a former Minnesota police officer who was convicted of manslaughter in the death of Mr. Wright.


The Minneapolis Police Department said in a statement that one officer fired shots at Mr. Locke, and it released the personnel file of Officer Mark Hanneman.


Ben Crump, a lawyer representing Mr. Locke’s family, compared the shooting of Mr. Locke, who was Black, to the killing of Breonna Taylor, a Black medical worker who was fatally shot by Louisville police officers in March 2020 during a botched raid on her apartment.


“If we learned anything from Breonna Taylor it is that no-knock warrants have deadly consequences for innocent, law-abiding Black citizens,” Mr. Crump said at a news conference on Friday.


No-knock warrants allow the police to enter property without first announcing their presence and are primarily used when there is concern that evidence will be destroyed or officers will be put in danger.


Tony Romanucci, another lawyer representing Mr. Locke’s family, said Mr. Locke had “no idea” who was in his apartment. “Had they announced who they were and why they were there, this tragedy could have been averted,” Mr. Romanucci said.


Mayor Frey said in a statement on Friday that no-knock warrants would not be allowed while the city reviewed its policy with experts who helped create “Breonna’s Law,” an ordinance passed after Ms. Taylor’s death that bans no-knock warrants in Louisville.


During the moratorium, which the mayor said was “to ensure safety of both the public and officers,” the police must knock, announce their presence and wait a reasonable amount of time before entering with a warrant.


Mr. Locke’s father, Andre Locke, said at the news conference that his son was the third oldest of eight siblings. He said his son had been working for the food delivery service DoorDash and was “a week away” from moving to Dallas, where his mother, Karen Wells, lives. Andre Locke said that several of his cousins worked in law enforcement and that one of them was a mentor to Amir.


“It was hurtful, it hurt deep to see my son executed, to see our son executed,” Mr. Locke said. “But the part that struck me the most was that he never got a chance to see or to know who killed him.”


Ms. Wells said she and her son would frequently talk on the FaceTime app when they were apart.


“I am going to miss just being able to see my son grow into a man, that’s what I am going to miss,” Ms. Wells said. “I am going to miss the fact that he didn’t, he won’t even get the chance to become a father and give us grandchildren.”


The Minneapolis Police Department has been under scrutiny since Officer Chauvin held his knee on Mr. Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes during an arrest in May 2020.


Mr. Floyd’s death generated widespread outrage, and protests across the country that summer called for social justice and police reform. An attempt to change policing in Minneapolis failed in November, when 56 percent of voters rejected a ballot measure that would have replaced the city’s Police Department with a public safety agency.


The release of the footage of Mr. Locke’s death came more quickly than in past cases, and after pressure from Representative Ilhan Omar and state officials.


Ten members of the Minneapolis delegation of the State House of Representatives had called for the footage to be released immediately in a letter to Mayor Frey and Chief Huffman.


“Minneapolis has a long path before us in establishing a trusting, effective and professional relationship between its Police Department and community,” the representatives wrote.



2) My Trans Journey: A History in 6 Passports

By Jennifer Finney Boylan, Feb. 6, 2022

Ms. Boylan is a contributing Opinion writer. She writes on L.G.B.T.Q. politics, education and life in Maine.

Illustration by Shoshana Schultz/The New York Times; Photographs courtesy Jennifer Finney Boylan

When my mother saw the photo on my first passport, issued exactly one week before my 18th birthday, she said, “You look like you have a secret.”


I did have a secret: I was trans. I didn’t think I was all that adept at hiding it, but somehow no one seemed to know. Even my mother seemed oblivious to the journey I longed to embark upon.


This winter, I came upon a stack of passports, all but the most recent marked “Canceled.” Those travel documents, bearing the stamps of customs agents around the world, provide evidence of the places I have been. They also paint a picture of the journeys trans people like me go on, passages as harrowing, in their own way, as movement across borders can sometimes be.


That 1976 passport got me as far as Munich, then in West Germany. I spent the summer traveling around, having adventures. One warm mid-July night I found myself sitting around a campfire with a bunch of hippies, eating rich brown bread, singing Bob Dylan songs in my high school German. Toward dawn I peeled off with a blonde girl from Köln. Her hair came down when I removed her kerchief. Then she put her hand on my cheek. “Wir sind gleich,” she said. We are the same! This stung. What right did she have to say this thing out loud? “Entschuldigung?” Excuse me?


I don’t mean that you are a girl, she said, a little bewildered. I just mean we are alike.


Ah, I said. I’d lost something in translation.


Ten years later, new passport in hand, I traveled to Wales with my girlfriend. My undergraduate years at Wesleyan University were now five years behind me. I had spent my early 20s in New York, working at Viking Press and Penguin Books, hoping that somehow succeeding professionally would make it OK for me to stay a man. The plan hadn’t gone so well.


I’d published but a single piece, “The Five Strangest Places in America,” in High Times, the magazine of drug culture. In the issue that ran my story, there was a centerfold of a luscious pound of Colombian sinsemilla. I was proud of what I’d written, but I couldn’t show the magazine to my parents.


Just before this passport picture was taken [photo in article] I’d learned that my father’s melanoma was back. Later, as I wandered along the Welsh coast, all I could think about was him. He died a year and three days later, on Easter Sunday. A few days before he last closed his eyes, he squeezed my hand from the bed in which he lay. In a morphine dream he whispered, “The young men shall rule.”


My wife, Deedie, and I had been married for 10 years when I got a job teaching at University College in Cork, Ireland. That same year, I’d started talking to her about my gender — awkwardly, inarticulately. I didn’t know whether I had the courage to undertake the voyage of transition. Deedie didn’t know whether she could stay with me if I did.


Our children were then 2 and 4 years old. I was determined to live a more honest life. But what do you do if living honestly means putting the lives of the people you love in jeopardy? How can you expect the person you love to help you become yourself if that very process threatens to change what she holds most dear?


We spent that year in Ireland drinking Murphys, shopping for wild Atlantic salmon, listening to modern Irish folk bands like Nomos and North Cregg. One day, toward the end of our time in Cork, I climbed to the top of the Church of St. Anne. What am I going to do? I asked myself.


Someone started ringing the carillon as I stood there, the bells as loud as they could be. The song was “You Are My Sunshine.” “You’ll never know dear, how much I love you. Please don’t take my sunshine away.”


A year later I was on hormones


When I wrote to the State Department to ask for a change in the gender assigned on my passport, I had to enclose a letter from my surgeon. I provided a copy of my name change, too, stamped with the golden seal of the Probate Court of the State of Maine, the place we had made our home since I started teaching at Colby College in Waterville. Still, I was stunned when the envelope arrived in the mail with my new passport, my sex marked definitively: F.


My family had remained intact. Deedie decided that she loved me in either gender. In some ways, post-transition, we became closer than ever.


I didn’t especially need a new passport; I wasn’t going anywhere. It was the only time I’d renewed a passport without having a specific journey in mind.


A strange side effect of hormones was that for a while, I looked a lot younger than I was, taking me on a journey not only of gender, but of time travel as well. But by 2012, the clock had caught up with me. Still, I didn’t mind looking older. I now well understood society’s beauty expectations, for trans and cis women alike. But it’s not only the passage of time that’s visible in my face here; by 2012 I’d also seen exactly how cruel the world is to women like me.


By the time this photo was taken, I’d spent a decade advocating for the rights of L.G.B. and especially T people. It was good work, but it absolutely wore me down. Every day I learned of terrible fates of women like me: those lost to murder, those who lost their families, those whose children were told their fathers were dead.


In the wake of publishing my memoir, “She’s Not There,” I was often in the public eye. On more than one occasion I agreed to tell my family’s story on Oprah Winfrey’s talk show, hoping that these appearances would help normalize the lives of families like ours. But each visit felt more demeaning than the last. On one program, I appeared with Deedie in hopes of sending the message that love can prevail. Instead, Oprah grilled us about our sex lives. On the flight back home, I put my head down on my tray table and cried.


Larry King raised an eyebrow when I was his guest and asked me if I had “a part missing.” I knew what he was getting at, but I refused to take the bait.


What I wish I’d said? “I’ve gained something.”


My wife and I visited Italy in late summer 2021. I’d been doing research for a book I was trying to write, about the cultural history of pizza. One day in Rome, we visited the Borghese Gallery. Together we gazed upon the pieces of Damien Hirst’s controversial “Treasures From the Wreck of the Unbelievable,” works the artist said had been salvaged from the sinking of a fantastical ship. For a while I stood before a statue of a nude female form, covered with barnacles. It pierced me how beautiful she was.


When we got home, I updated my passport once more. I look at the no-longer-young woman in this passport photograph, and as Nora Ephron once said, I feel bad about my neck. Still, I am finally exactly who I’d always hoped I’d be. If I live as long as my mother — who died just shy of 95 — I will have lived more than half my life female. True, my outsides are more than a little worn down. But my heart has a peace I could never have imagined the night that girl in Munich put her hand on my cheek and said, “Wir sind gleich.” There are times when the journey of my life really does feel like a treasure salvaged from the wreck of the unbelievable.


When I finally got back to New York, I hastily filled out my customs form as we arrived at Kennedy Airport. Did I have anything to declare? Hell yes I have something to declare, I thought: I’m free. I wanted to shout it at the top of my lungs. But I said nothing as I handed the customs agent my form.


“Have a nice day, ma’am,” he said and opened the gate. “Welcome home.”



13) President Biden adopts steps for promoting union membership.

Many of the recommendations, proposed by a White House task force, would make it easier for federal workers and employees of contractors to unionize.

By Noam Scheiber, Feb. 7, 2022

President Biden last week signed an executive order requiring wage agreements between labor unions and contractors on federal construction project worth more than $35 million.
President Biden last week signed an executive order requiring wage agreements between labor unions and contractors on federal construction project worth more than $35 million. Credit...Sarahbeth Maney/The New York Times

The White House on Monday released a report outlining several dozen steps it intends to take to promote union membership and collective bargaining among both public and private sector employees.


The report is the product of a task force that President Biden created through an executive order in April. A White House statement said the president had accepted the task force’s nearly 70 recommendations.


Many of the steps would make it easier for federal workers and employees of contractors to unionize, including ensuring that union organizers have access to employees on federal property, which does not always happen today.


The report also recommends creating preferences in federal grant and loan programs for employers who have strong labor standards, preventing employers from spending federal contract money on anti-union campaigns and making employees aware of their organizing rights.


When the task force was created, some White House officials indicated that they supported considering labor union membership as a factor in awarding government contracts, but the task force recommendations generally did not emphasize this approach.


Under federal procurement law, the government generally cannot deny contracts to companies it deems hostile to labor unions. But it may be able to consider a company’s posture toward unions as a factor in certain narrow cases — for example, when labor strife resulting from an aggressive anti-union campaign could substantially delay the provision of some important good or service.


The executive order Mr. Biden signed creating the task force required it to submit recommendations within 180 days, at which point the president would review them.


One key premise of the task force was that the National Labor Relations Act, the 1935 law that protects federal labor rights, explicitly encourage collective bargaining, and yet, according to the Biden White House, no previous administration had explored ways that the executive branch could do so systematically.


The ambition of the task force was twofold: to enact policies for federal agencies and contractors that encourage unionization and to model best practices for employers in the public and private sectors.


The president’s task force will submit a second report describing progress on its recommendations and proposing additional ones in six months.


Union officials and labor experts consider Mr. Biden to be among the most pro-labor presidents ever. He moved quickly to oust Trump appointees viewed as unsympathetic to labor and to undo Trump-era rules that weakened protections for workers, and signed legislation that secured tens of billions of dollars to stabilize union pension plans.


Mr. Biden has occasionally used his bully pulpit to urge employers not to undermine workers’ labor rights or bargaining positions, as when he warned against coercing workers who were weighing unionizing during a prominent union election at Amazon last year. He later called Kellogg’s plan to permanently replace striking workers “an existential attack” on its union members.


Last week, Mr. Biden signed an executive order requiring so-called project labor agreements — agreements between construction unions and contractors that set wages and working conditions — on federal construction projects worth more than $35 million, a move that the White House estimates could affect nearly 200,000 workers. He had previously signed an executive order raising the minimum wage for federal contractors to $15 per hour from $10.95.


But despite Mr. Biden’s backing, and polls showing widespread public support for unions, the rate of union membership nationwide remains stuck at a mere 10 percent, its lowest in decades.


The Protecting the Right to Organize Act, or PRO Act, which Mr. Biden supports, would make it easier to unionize by preventing companies from holding mandatory anti-union meetings and imposing financial penalties on employers that retaliate against workers seeking to unionize. It passed the House in March but remains a long shot in the Senate. Democrats may seek to pass some of its provisions along party lines this year.



4) Chimps Catch Insects to Put on Wounds. Is It Folk Medicine?

They don’t eat the bugs, and they’re definitely applying them to wounds, so some scientists think the primates may be treating one another’s injuries.

By Nicholas Bakalar, Feb. 7, 2022


Chimpanzees design and use tools. That is well known. But is it possible that they also use medicines to treat their own and others’ injuries? A new report suggests they do.


Since 2005, researchers have been studying a community of 45 chimpanzees in the Loango National Park in Gabon, on the west coast of Africa. Over a period of 15 months, from November 2019 to February 2021, the researchers saw 76 open wounds on 22 different chimpanzees. In 19 instances they watched a chimp performing what looked like self-treatment of the wound using an insect as a salve. In a few instances, one chimp appeared to treat another. The scientists published their observations in the journal Current Biology on Monday.


The procedure was similar each time. First, the chimps caught a flying insect; then they immobilized it by squeezing it between their lips. They placed the insect on the wound, moving it around with their fingertips. Finally, they took the insect out, using either their mouths or their fingers. Often, they put the insect in the wound and took it out several times.


The researchers do not know what insect the chimps were using, or precisely how it may help heal a wound. They do know that the bugs are small flying insects, dark in color. There’s no evidence that the chimps are eating the insects — they are definitely squeezing them with their lips and then applying them to the wounds.


There have been other reports of self-medication in animals, including dogs and cats that eat grass or plants, probably to help them vomit, and bears and deer that consume medicinal plants, apparently to self-medicate. Orangutans have been seen applying plant material to soothe muscle injuries. But the researchers know of no previous report of nonhuman mammals using insects for a medicinal purpose.


In three instances, the researchers saw chimps using the technique on another chimp. In one case, they saw an adult female named Carol grooming around a flesh wound on the leg of an adult male, Littlegrey. She grabbed an insect, and gave it to Littlegrey, who put it between his lips, and transferred it to his wound. Later, Carol and another adult male were seen moving the insect around on Littlegrey’s wound. Another adult male approached, took the insect out of the wound, put it between his own lips, then reapplied it to Littlegrey’s leg.


One chimp, an adult male named Freddy, was a particularly enthusiastic user of insect medicine, treating himself numerous times for injuries of his head, both arms, his lower back, his left wrist and his penis. One day, the researchers watched him treat himself twice for the same arm wound. The researchers don’t know how Freddy got these injuries, but some of them probably involved fighting with other males.


There are some animals that cooperate with others in similar ways, said Simone Pika, who leads an animal cognition lab at the University of Osnabrück in Germany and is an author of the study. “But we don’t know of any other instances in mammals,” she said. “This may be a learned behavior that exists only in this group. We don’t know if our chimps are special in this regard.”


Aaron Sandel, an anthropologist at the University of Texas, Austin, found the work valuable, but at the same time expressed some doubts. “They don’t offer an alternative explanation for the behavior, and they make no connection to what insect it might be,” he said. “The jump to a potential medical function? That’s a stretch at this point.”


Still, he said, “attending to their own wounds or the wounds of others using a tool, another object — that’s very rare.” Their documentation of chimps paying such attention to other chimps is, he added, “an important contribution to the study of social behavior in apes. And it’s still interesting to ask whether there is empathy involved in this, as it is in humans.”


In some forms of ape social behavior, it is clear that there is an exchange of value. For example, grooming another chimp provides relief from parasites for the groomed animal, but also an insect snack for the groomer. But in the instances she observed, Dr. Pika said, the chimp gets nothing tangible in return. To her, this shows the apes are engaging in an act that increases “the welfare of another being,” and teaches us more about the primates’ social relationships.


“With every field site we learn more about chimps,” she said. “They really surprise us.”



5) Book Banning Is About the Illusion of Parental Control

By Jessica Grose, Feb. 9, 2022

Elanor Davis

Last week, the book publisher Lisa Lucas started a conversation on Twitter about all of the potentially disturbing, sometimes naughty books that some kids of our vintage used to read without our parents paying the least bit of attention. “Flowers in the Attic,” a creepy, gothic tale of incest and child abuse by V.C. Andrews was a popular one, and I remember it getting passed around one summer at sleep away camp when I was 11. It scared the daylights out of me.


I was a voracious reader, and some of what I read in my tweens and teens was prurient and had close to zero literary value. (For instance, “Go Ask Alice,” a cautionary tale of drug use masquerading as a teen’s diary, which I thought was a true story until I was 30.) Other books provided tools for identity formation, in ways that in retrospect are hilarious and myopic. Like many dramatic, bookish teenagers, I loved “The Bell Jar,” which I’m pretty sure was on my sophomore English summer reading list.


After that, I read biographies of Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes on my own, because I love mess and gossip. In college, I told at least one suitor that I wanted a passionate romance like theirs: The first time they met, at a party, Hughes ripped off Plath’s headband and earring, and Plath bit Hughes on the face. In true adolescent fashion, I glossed over the depressing ending of their story. I doubt that was the takeaway my teachers intended when “The Bell Jar” was assigned.


I mention all this because of the recent ongoing public debate, mostly among adults, about which books are “appropriate” for teenagers to read in schools. Book bans, even book burnings, are on the rise, and the latest round of discussion took off with the McMinn County, Tenn., school board’s decision to remove “Maus,” a graphic novel about the Holocaust, from their district’s eighth grade curriculum.


For the record, I think bans are terrible for many reasons, including because they’re frequently about political fights among adults that spill into children’s lives when it’s not really about them. As my Times colleague Margaret Renkl wrote Monday in an Opinion essay, “the vast majority of teenagers in McMinn County already carry the modern world around in their pockets — the cussing and the sex and the violence and all of it.” Many recent bans are part of the general, misguided push against so-called critical race theory. Other bans are against books depicting any kind of non-heterosexual sex or romance. The American Library Association has a list of the top 10 most challenged books from 2001-2020 on its website, and sexual and racial content are popular recent reasons for banning.


More alarming are the threats to criminalize distribution of what politicians deem “pornographic” books. One Texas high school librarian told NBC News she was retiring earlier than planned because of these threats. “I got out because I was afraid to stand up to the attacks. I didn’t want to get caught in somebody’s snare. Who wants to be called a pornographer? Who wants to be accused of being a pedophile or reported to the police for putting a book in a kid’s hand?”


While it is distressing, none of this is new. An article published more than 40 years ago in Time magazine called “The Growing Battle of the Books” discusses a strikingly similar dynamic to the one we’re witnessing today, with books that have sexual, racial and religious content among the most banned.


The entire article is worth a read, but this paragraph stuck out to me as particularly relevant to our current struggle:


Few censors, if any, tend to see that censorship itself runs counter to certain basic American values. But why have so many people with such an outlook begun lurching forth so aggressively in recent years? They quite likely have always suffered the censorial impulse. But they have been recently emboldened by the same resurgent moralistic mood that has enspirited evangelical fundamentalists and given form to the increasingly outspoken constituency of the Moral Majority. At another level, they probably hunger for some power over something, just as everybody supposedly does these days. Thus they are moved, as American Library Association President Peggy Sullivan says, “by a desperation to feel some control over what is close to their lives.”


It’s not surprising to me that after two years of pandemic uncertainty and chaos, we’re in a moment where some parents want to exert control over something, anything for their kids, and I do have some empathy for that feeling, if not for the expression of it. Particularly because the early quarantines, when virtual schooling was happening everywhere, brought curriculum and teachers into our homes in much more intimate ways. In that moment, teenagers were at home instead of starting to grow away from their families, which is what they’re supposed to do. While parents always have some sway over their kids, this period of enforced togetherness possibly gave some parents the illusion that they still had full authority over their adolescents’ intellectual lives.


My mother, who practiced psychiatry for 40 years, used to tell me that you have until your kid is 12 to, if you will, brainwash them with your set of moral values. After that, their peers become as, if not more, influential than their parents. In the ’90s, Judith Rich Harris, an independent researcher, promoted the theory that parental influence matters less than we think in terms of child development.


Harris, who died in 2019, once wrote, “If teenagers wanted to be like adults they wouldn’t be shoplifting nail polish from drugstores or hanging off overpasses to spray I LOVE YOU LIƨA on the arch,” and that “If they really aspired to ‘mature status’ they would be doing boring adult things like sorting the laundry and figuring out their income taxes. Teenagers aren’t trying to be like adults: they are trying to distinguish themselves from adults!”


And thank goodness they are. In December, NPR ran a segment on book bans, and noted that in North Kansas City, Mo., a parent-led group got “All Boys Aren’t Blue” by George M. Johnson and “Fun Home” by Alison Bechdel, which are both memoirs by gay writers, removed from school libraries. “The district ended up putting those books back on shelves after students protested. Sixteen-year-old Aurora Nicol spoke at a school board meeting after the books were returned,” Nomin Ujiyediin reported.


Despite parental outbursts, teens are going to continue to find ways to assert themselves publicly and privately, and to get their mitts on whatever their parents don’t want them to read, see or discuss.


I'm so glad I read so many different kinds of books as a teenager, even the supposedly bad ones. Because it was fun, because I bonded with my friends over those books, because they gave me goofy ideas I could explore in my head without acting them out in real life; and some ideas that I had to act out in real life to experience the consequences of my choices. My older daughter is currently reading a book about sinister dolls who are constantly plotting against each other and attempting to avoid something called “permanent doll state.” I have no idea if she’s learning a damn thing from it, but she sure is enjoying herself.



6) The Beauty of ABC’s ‘Abbott Elementary’

By Charles M. Blow, Feb. 9, 2022

Gilles Mingasson/ABC

My mother has worked in the school system since I was in preschool. For most of that time she was a teacher. When she retired, she ran for the school board and won. She is now serving her third term. She’ll be 80 years old in November.


My brother is also a teacher, as is his daughter.


All my life I have seen up close the struggles and joys of teaching: the papers spread out on the dining room table, separated into two stacks, the ones that had been graded and those that had not. I would help my mother with her bulletin boards in the beginning of these years and help her process through the long parent-teacher conferences in the middle of these years.


I remember the home visits she made, sometimes to talk about a student who was struggling, sometimes to take dinner to a family that was hard on its luck.


I remember the students in our home as my mother bounced back and forth between helping them through homework and making dinner, so deeply connected to the children that they all called her Mama.


Maybe that is why the series “Abbott Elementary” has struck such a chord with me, because it reminded me of the beautiful struggle of people like my mother, who take on the all-consuming task of teaching.


That show is about a gaggle of well-meaning teachers — both Black and white — at a struggling, majority-Black Philadelphia elementary school with an aloof and incompetent principal. But it could well have been set anywhere.


The show is a sensation. It set ratings records for ABC and is only growing in popularity, resonating with many more people than just teachers and the people who love them.


The show illustrates that while there may be inequities in funding for these schools, there is no shortage of teachers who care and are determined to do the best they can for their students.


It refocuses the lens on the nobility of the profession, the way that teachers are driven more by mission than money, more by the need to make a difference than to make a killing.


There is a purity and innocence in it. It offers comfort in a time of strife and anxiety. Race is always present but not always central. This is a story about shared humanity.


It reminds you that many teachers are everyday heroes, not only teaching our children, but inspiring them, loving them and protecting them.


It is interesting that this show has burst onto the scene at the same time that a culture war is playing out in our schools and the teaching profession is straining under the weight of the pandemic.


Republicans in state after state are introducing bills to prevent educators from teaching a comprehensive, accurate version of American history, with all its complexities and trauma, especially as it relates to race. A report by the education website Chalkbeat last week found that at least 36 states have “adopted or introduced laws or policies that restrict teaching about race and racism.”


A Florida bill, backed by that state’s governor, would prohibit  schools and private businesses from making people (read “white people”) feel “discomfort” or “guilt” based on race. Good luck enforcing that. Exactly how does one measure discomfort and guilt? Are those floating emotions, presenting differently in different people?


Every Black child, or child of color, or gay kid could argue that the absence of accurate representation of their groups in class discussions makes them feel discomfort. The blindfold can always be flipped.


Furthermore, there is a raging debate about masking and vaccination in schools as the pandemic has been politicized. As an Axios/Momentive poll from August found, a parent’s political party tended to align with their opposition to school mask mandates, with 56 percent of Republican parents opposed to the mandates versus 24 percent of Independents and 4 percent of Democrats.


Because of this, the threats to teachers have increased dramatically, so much so that in October, the United States attorney general directed the F.B.I. and the U.S. attorneys’ offices to discuss strategies for addressing what it called a “disturbing trend”: “an increase in harassment, intimidation and threats of violence against school board members, teachers and workers in our nation’s public schools.”


On top of all that, and perhaps because of it, teachers are leaving the profession in droves, including Black teachers. According to a report by the RAND Corporation last year, “nearly one in four teachers overall, and almost half of Black teachers in particular, said that they were likely to leave their jobs by the end of the 2020-2021 school year.”


The teachers in “Abbott Elementary,” particularly the young, Black, idealistic ones, show us what is at stake as we tighten the vise on educators. They remind us that these are not just pawns in a political game, but real people, often the best kind of people, doing the best they can with too little and not been applauded nearly enough.