Sign the petition:
If extradited to the United States, Julian Assange, father of two young British children, would face a sentence of 175 years in prison merely for receiving and publishing truthful information that revealed US war crimes.
UK District Judge Vanessa Baraitser has ruled that "it would be oppressive to extradite him to the United States of America".
Amnesty International states, “Were Julian Assange to be extradited or subjected to any other transfer to the USA, Britain would be in breach of its obligations under international law.”
Human Rights Watch says, “The only thing standing between an Assange prosecution and a major threat to global media freedom is Britain. It is urgent that it defend the principles at risk.”
The NUJ has stated that the “US charges against Assange pose a huge threat, one that could criminalise the critical work of investigative journalists & their ability to protect their sources”.
Julian will not survive extradition to the United States.
The UK is required under its international obligations to stop the extradition. Article 4 of the US-UK extradition treaty says: "Extradition shall not be granted if the offense for which extradition is requested is a political offense."
The decision to either Free Assange or send him to his death is now squarely in the political domain. The UK must not send Julian to the country that conspired to murder him in London.
The United Kingdom can stop the extradition at any time. It must comply with Article 4 of the US-UK Extradition Treaty and Free Julian Assange.
Laws are created to be followed
by the poor.
Laws are made by the rich
to bring some order to exploitation.
The poor are the only law abiders in history.
When the poor make laws
the rich will be no more.
—Roque Dalton Presente!
(May 14, 1935 – Assassinated May 10, 1975)
 Roque Dalton was a Salvadoran poet, essayist, journalist, political activist, and intellectual. He is considered one of Latin America's most compelling poets.
“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.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org
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: email@example.com
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”
Bureau of Labor Statistics
U.S. Department of Labor
For release 10:00 a.m. (ET) Thursday, January 20, 2022
(202) 691-6378 • firstname.lastname@example.org • www.bls.gov/cps
(202) 691-5902 • PressOffice@bls.gov
In 2021, the number of wage and salary workers belonging to unions continued to decline (-241,000) to 14.0 million, and the percent who were members of unions—the union membership rate—was 10.3 percent, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. The rate is down from 10.8 percent in 2020—when the rate increased due to a disproportionately large decline in the total number of nonunion workers compared with the decline in the number of union members. The 2021 unionization rate is the same as the 2019 rate of 10.3 percent. In 1983, the first year for which comparable union data are available, the union membership rate was 20.1 percent and there were 17.7 million union workers.
These data on union membership are collected as part of the Current Population Survey (CPS), a monthly sample survey of about 60,000 eligible households that obtains information on employment and unemployment among the nation’s civilian noninstitutional population age 16 and over. For further information, see the Technical Note in this news release.
Highlights from the 2021 data:
• The union membership rate of public-sector workers (33.9 percent) continued to be more than five times higher than the rate of private-sector workers (6.1 percent). (See table 3.)
• The highest unionization rates were among workers in education, training, and library occupations (34.6 percent) and protective service occupations (33.3 percent). (See table 3.)
• Men continued to have a higher union membership rate (10.6 percent) than women (9.9 percent). The gap between union membership rates for men and women has narrowed considerably since 1983 (the earliest year for which comparable data are available), when rates for men and women were 24.7 percent and 14.6 percent, respectively. (See table 1.)
• Black workers remained more likely to be union members than White, Asian, or Hispanic workers. (See table 1.)
• Nonunion workers had median weekly earnings that were 83 percent of earnings for workers who were union members ($975 versus $1,169). (The comparisons of earnings in this news release are on a broad level and do not control for many factors that can be important in explaining earnings differences.) (See table 2.)
• Among states, Hawaii and New York continued to have the highest union membership rates (22.4 percent and 22.2 percent, respectively), while South Carolina and North Carolina continued to have the lowest (1.7 percent and 2.6 percent, respectively). (See table 5.)
Industry and Occupation of Union Members
In 2021, 7.0 million employees in the public sector belonged to unions, the same as in the private sector. (See table 3.)
Union membership decreased by 191,000 over the year in the public sector. The public-sector union membership rate declined by 0.9 percentage point in 2021 to 33.9 percent, following an increase of 1.2 percentage points in 2020. In 2021, the union membership rate continued to be highest in local government (40.2 percent), which employs many workers in heavily unionized occupations, such as police officers, firefighters, and teachers.
The number of union workers employed in the private sector changed little over the year. However, the number of private-sector nonunion workers increased in 2021. The private-sector unionization rate declined by 0.2 percentage point in 2021 to 6.1 percent, slightly lower than its 2019 rate of 6.2 percent. Industries with high unionization rates included utilities (19.7 percent), motion pictures and sound recording industries (17.3 percent), and transportation and warehousing (14.7 percent). Low unionization rates occurred in finance (1.2 percent), professional and technical services (1.2 percent), food services and drinking places (1.2 percent), and insurance (1.5 percent).
Among occupational groups, the highest unionization rates in 2021 were in education, training, and library occupations (34.6 percent) and protective service occupations (33.3 percent). Unionization rates were lowest in food preparation and serving related occupations (3.1 percent); sales and related occupations (3.3 percent); computer and mathematical occupations (3.7 percent); personal care and service occupations (3.9 percent); and farming, fishing, and forestry occupations (4.0 percent).
Selected Characteristics of Union Members
In 2021, the number of men who were union members, at 7.5 million, changed little, while the number of women who were union members declined by 182,000 to 6.5 million. The unionization rate for men decreased by 0.4 percentage point over the year to 10.6 percent. In 2021, women’s union membership rate declined by 0.6 percentage point to 9.9 percent. The 2021 decreases in union membership rates for men and women reflect increases in the total number of nonunion workers. The rate for men is below the 2019 rate (10.8 percent), while the rate for women is above the 2019 rate (9.7 percent). (See table 1.)
Among major race and ethnicity groups, Black workers continued to have a higher union membership rate in 2021 (11.5 percent) than White workers (10.3 percent), Asian workers (7.7 percent), and Hispanic workers (9.0 percent). The union membership rate declined by 0.4 percentage point for White workers, by 0.8 percentage point for Black workers, by 1.2 percentage points for Asian workers, and by 0.8 percentage point for Hispanic workers. The 2021 rates for Whites, Blacks, and Hispanics are little or no different from 2019, while the rate for Asians is lower.
By age, workers ages 45 to 54 had the highest union membership rate in 2021, at 13.1 percent. Younger workers—those ages 16 to 24—had the lowest union membership rate, at 4.2 percent.
In 2021, the union membership rate for full-time workers (11.1 percent) continued to be considerably higher than that for part-time workers (6.1 percent).
In 2021, 15.8 million wage and salary workers were represented by a union, 137,000 less than in 2020. The percentage of workers represented by a union was 11.6 percent, down by 0.5 percentage point from 2020 but the same as in 2019. Workers represented by a union include both union members (14.0 million) and workers who report no union affiliation but whose jobs are covered by a union contract (1.8 million). (See table 1.)
Among full-time wage and salary workers, union members had median usual weekly earnings of $1,169 in 2021, while those who were not union members had median weekly earnings of $975. In addition to coverage by a collective bargaining agreement, these earnings differences reflect a variety of influences, including variations in the distributions of union members and nonunion employees by occupation, industry, age, firm size, or geographic region. (See tables 2 and 4.)
Union Membership by State
In 2021, 30 states and the District of Columbia had union membership rates below that of the U.S. average, 10.3 percent, while 20 states had rates above it. All states in both the East South Central and West South Central divisions had union membership rates below the national average, while all states in both the Middle Atlantic and Pacific divisions had rates above it. (See table 5 and chart 1.)
Ten states had union membership rates below 5.0 percent in 2021. South Carolina had the lowest rate (1.7 percent), followed by North Carolina (2.6 percent) and Utah (3.5 percent). Two states had union membership rates over 20.0 percent in 2021: Hawaii (22.4 percent) and New York (22.2 percent).
In 2021, about 30 percent of the 14.0 million union members lived in just two states (California at 2.5 million and New York at 1.7 million). However, these states accounted for about 17 percent of wage and salary employment nationally.
Coronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic Impact on 2021 Union Members Data
Union membership data for 2021 continue to reflect the impact on the labor market of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Comparisons with union membership measures for 2020, including metrics such as the union membership rate and median usual weekly earnings, should be interpreted with caution. The onset of the pandemic in 2020 led to an increase in the unionization rate due to a disproportionately large decline in the number of nonunion workers compared with the decline in the number of union members. The decrease in the rate in 2021 reflects a large gain in the number of nonunion workers and a decrease in the number of union workers. More information on labor market developments in recent months is available at:
Resources for Resisting Federal Repression
Since June of 2020, activists have been subjected to an increasingly aggressive crackdown on protests by federal law enforcement. The federal response to the movement for Black Lives has included federal criminal charges for activists, door knocks by federal law enforcement agents, and increased use of federal troops to violently police protests.
The NLG National Office is releasing this resource page for activists who are resisting federal repression. It includes a link to our emergency hotline numbers, as well as our library of Know-Your-Rights materials, our recent federal repression webinar, and a list of some of our recommended resources for activists. We will continue to update this page.
If you are contacted by federal law enforcement you should exercise all of your rights. It is always advisable to speak to an attorney before responding to federal authorities.
State and Local Hotlines
If you have been contacted by the FBI or other federal law enforcement, in one of the following areas, you may be able to get help or information from one of these local NLG hotlines for:
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:
Movement for Black Lives Legal Resources
By Gail Collins, May 11, 2022https://www.nytimes.com/2022/05/11/opinion/roe-v-wade-senate.html
When I was back in high school — a Catholic girls’ school in Cincinnati at the beginning of the sexual revolution — our religion class covered the abortion issue in approximately 45 seconds.
“Abortion is murder,” said the priest who was giving the lesson, before moving on to more controversial topics, like necking and heavy petting. I still have a vivid memory of being marched into the auditorium for a lecture from a visiting cleric who assured us that when Jesus was dying on the cross, he was tortured by a vision of the sins of mankind — notably adolescent girls “making out with boys in the back seat of a car.”
Now, that was a long time ago, and the bottom line was at least clear and consistent: no sex except for married couples who want to have babies. You don’t hear that specific message too much in today’s political debates about reproduction, but as a way of thinking, it’s most definitely still there.
On Wednesday the Senate failed to pass a Democratic bill supporting women’s right to choose in anticipation of a Supreme Court decision going in the other direction.
During the debate, Republicans claimed most Americans are opposed to late-term abortion, while Democrats noted that polls show the public wants abortion to be a matter between a woman and her doctor. Easy to imagine both being true — most people are uncomfortable with the idea of ending a pregnancy when the fetus is well developed, but there’s long been a deeply reasonable yearning to keep the government out of a matter so private and personal.
It’s pretty clear where we’re going. The Supreme Court’s Trump-constructed majority will reject the by-now-longstanding understanding that a woman has the constitutional right to decide whether she wants to end a pregnancy. In at least 13 states, laws banning abortion could kick into place almost immediately.
Welcome to the land of my high school religion classes, people. The governor of Mississippi, when asked whether the state would move on to a ban on contraception, said, rather unnervingly, that it’s “not what we’re focused on at this time.” And the dreaded Tennessee senator Marsha Blackburn has denounced the Supreme Court decision in Griswold v. Connecticut, which covers the use of contraceptives for married couples under the constitutional right to privacy.
Blackburn says Griswold is “constitutionally unsound.” Not the only unnerving position — when Republican candidates for Michigan attorney general were asked about Griswold in a debate earlier this year, they didn’t seem to know what it was about. (One pulled out a mobile device to look it up while another complained, “I didn’t know we could have our phones up here.”)
Anyhow, the question is whether states that are able to ban abortion will march further into anti-birth-control territory. There’s bound to be a next step. The many, many activists who have focused their political careers on constraining women’s sexual activity aren’t going to just declare victory and go home.
In Louisiana, lawmakers are considering a proposal to classify ending a pregnancy at any point from the moment of fertilization as homicide. And the Idaho State Legislature may hold hearings on outlawing emergency contraceptives, a reminder that when we’re talking about “states’ rights,” we should think about trusting your fate to a roomful of state legislators.
All this is basically about punishing women who want to have sex for pleasure. It’s a concept with a long tradition in American history. Back in 1873, Congress began to pass a series of laws prohibiting dissemination through the mail of birth control literature, drugs or devices. Later, when a journalist asked Anthony Comstock, founder of the New York Commission on the Suppression of Vice, whether it would be all right for a woman to use contraceptives if pregnancy would endanger her life, Comstock snapped: “Can they not use self-control? Or must they sink to the level of beasts?”
OK, the current debate is probably not going to get quite that far. But it’s important to note that the policies we’re talking about here are basically a matter of legislating the religious beliefs of just one segment of the public.
The goal of the Democratic Senate bill was mainly to get the public focused on the reproductive rights issue before the fall elections. And that certainly couldn’t hurt. There have to be voters out there who aren’t all that geared up about going to the polls but who might be moved if they got to hear the speech by Republican Steve Daines of Montana that praised anti-abortion laws as being similar to ones “that protect the eggs of a sea turtle or the eggs of eagles.”
Those sea turtles have been coming up a lot in this debate. Republican James Lankford of Oklahoma, in a long, emotional speech, recounted a confrontation with abortion rights demonstrators who pointed out there was a difference between laws protecting a woman’s right to choose and laws protecting endangered species.
“And I’m called the extremist,” Lankford declared. He added, “If people call me a radical for believing children are valuable — so be it.”
Actually, people call Lankford a radical for believing that the reproductive experiences of female water-dwelling reptiles are comparable to the experiences of human beings whose offspring will need and deserve many years of constant care and concern in order to prosper.
Why has the union campaign spread so much further at the coffee chain than at the e-commerce giant?
By Noam Scheiber, May 12, 2022
Uriel Concepción, who works at Amazon’s LDJ5 warehouse on Staten Island, wore an Amazon Labor Union flag during a rally last month. Workers at the facility rejected joining the union. Credit...DeSean McClinton-Holland for The New York Times
Roughly six weeks after successful union votes at two Buffalo-area Starbucks stores in December, workers had filed paperwork to hold union elections in at least 20 other Starbucks locations nationwide.
By contrast, since the Amazon Labor Union’s victory last month in a vote at a huge warehouse on Staten Island, workers at just one other Amazon facility have filed for a union election — with an obscure union with a checkered past — before promptly withdrawing their petition.
The difference may come as a surprise to those who believed that organizing at Amazon might follow the explosive pattern witnessed at Starbucks, where workers at more than 250 stores have filed for elections and the union has prevailed at a vast majority of the locations that have voted.
Christian Smalls, the president of the independent Amazon Labor Union, told NPR shortly after the victory that his group had heard from workers in 50 other Amazon facilities, adding, “Just like the Starbucks movement, we want to spread like wildfire across the nation.”
The two campaigns share some features — most notably, both are largely overseen by workers rather than professional organizers. And the Amazon Labor Union has made more headway at Amazon than most experts expected, and more than any established union.
But unionizing workers at Amazon was always likely to be a longer, messier slog given the scale of its facilities and the nature of the workplace. “Amazon is so much harder a nut to crack,” John Logan, a labor studies professor at San Francisco State University, said by email. The union recently lost a vote at a smaller warehouse on Staten Island.
To win, a union must get the backing of more than 50 percent of the workers who cast a vote. That means 15 or 20 pro-union workers can ensure victory in a typical Starbucks store — a level of support that can be summoned in hours or days. At Amazon warehouses, a union frequently would have to win hundreds or thousands of votes.
Organizers for the Amazon Labor Union spent hundreds of hours talking with co-workers inside the warehouse during breaks, after work and on days off. They held cookouts at a bus stop outside the warehouse and communicated with hundreds of colleagues through WhatsApp groups.
Brian Denning, who leads an Amazon organizing campaign sponsored by the Democratic Socialists of America chapter in Portland, Ore., said his group had received six or seven inquiries a week from Amazon workers and contractors after the Staten Island victory, versus one or two a week beforehand.
But Mr. Denning, a former Amazon warehouse employee who tells workers that they are the ones who must lead a union campaign, said that many didn’t realize how much effort unionizing required, and that some became discouraged once he conferred with them.
“We get people saying how do we get an A.L.U. situation here? How do we do that like they did?” Mr. Denning said, adding: “I don’t want to scare them away. But I can’t lie to workers. This is what it is. It’s not for everyone.”
At Starbucks, employees work together in a relatively small space, sometimes without a manager present to supervise them directly for hours at a time. This allows them to openly discuss concerns about pay and working conditions and the merits of a union.
At Amazon, the warehouses are cavernous, and workers are often more isolated and more closely supervised, especially during an organizing campaign.
“What they would do is strategically separate me from everyone in my department,” said Derrick Palmer, an Amazon employee on Staten Island who is one of the union’s vice presidents. “If they see me interacting with that person, they would move them to a different station.”
Asked about the allegation, Amazon said it assigned employees to work stations and tasks based on operational needs.
Both companies have accused the unions of their own unfair tactics, including intimidating workers and inciting hostile confrontations.
Organizing drivers is an even greater challenge, partly because they are officially employed by contractors that Amazon hires, though labor organizers say they would like to pressure the company to address drivers’ concerns.
Christy Cameron, a former driver at an Amazon facility near St. Louis, said the job’s setup largely kept drivers from interacting. At the beginning of each shift, a manager for the contractor briefs drivers, who then disperse to their trucks, help load them and get on the road.
“It leaves very little time to talk with co-workers outside of a hello,” Ms. Cameron said in a text message, adding that Amazon’s training discouraged discussing working conditions with fellow drivers. “It was generally how they are highly against unionizing and don’t talk about pay and benefits with each other.”
Amazon, with about a million U.S. workers, and Starbucks, with just under 250,000, offer similar pay. Amazon has said that its minimum hourly wage is $15 and that the average starting wage in warehouses is above $18. Starbucks has said that as of August its minimum hourly wage will be $15 and that the average will be nearly $17.
Despite the similarity in pay, organizers say the dynamics of the companies’ work forces can be quite different.
At the Staten Island warehouse where Amazon workers voted against unionizing, many employees work four-hour shifts and commute 30 to 60 minutes each way, suggesting they have limited alternatives.
“People who go to that length for a four-hour job — it’s a particular group of people who are really struggling to make it,” said Gene Bruskin, a longtime labor organizer who advised the Amazon Labor Union in the two Staten Island elections, in an interview last month.
As a result of all this, organizing at Amazon may involve incremental gains rather than high-profile election victories. In the Minneapolis area, a group of primarily Somali-speaking Amazon workers has staged protests and received concessions from the company, such as a review process for firings related to productivity targets. Chicago-area workers involved in the group Amazonians United received pay increases not long after a walkout in December.
Ted Miin, an Amazon worker who is one of the group’s members, said the concessions had followed eight or nine months of organizing, versus the minimum of two years he estimates it would have taken to win a union election and negotiate a first contract.
For workers who seek a contract, the processes for negotiating one at Starbucks and Amazon may differ. In most cases, bargaining for improvements in compensation and working conditions requires additional pressure on the employer.
At Starbucks, that pressure is in some sense the union’s momentum from election victories. “The spread of the campaign gives the union the ability to win in bargaining,” Mr. Logan said. (Starbucks has nonetheless said it will withhold new pay and benefit increases from workers who have unionized, saying such provisions must be bargained.)
At Amazon, by contrast, the pressure needed to win a contract will probably come through other means. Some are conventional, like continuing to organize warehouse employees, who could decide to strike if Amazon refuses to recognize them or bargain. The company is challenging the union victory on Staten Island.
But the union is also enlisting political allies with an eye toward pressuring Amazon. Mr. Smalls, the union president, testified this month at a Senate hearing that was exploring whether the federal government should deny contracts to companies that violate labor laws.
On Thursday, Senator Bob Casey, a Pennsylvania Democrat, introduced legislation seeking to prevent employers from deducting anti-union activity, like hiring consultants to dissuade workers from unionizing, as a business expense.
While many of these efforts may be more symbolic than substantive, some appear to have gotten traction. After the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey announced last summer that it was awarding Amazon a 20-year lease at Newark Liberty International Airport to develop an air cargo hub, a coalition of community, labor and environmental groups mobilized against the project.
The status of the lease, which was to become final by late last year, remains unclear. The Port Authority said that lease negotiations with Amazon were continuing and that it continued to seek community input. An Amazon spokeswoman said the company was confident the deal would close.
A spokeswoman for Gov. Phil Murphy of New Jersey indicated that the company might have to negotiate with labor groups before the deal could go forward. “The governor encourages anyone doing business in our state to work collaboratively with labor partners in good faith,” the spokeswoman said.
Karen Weise contributed reporting.
By Jamelle Bouie, May 13, 2022https://www.nytimes.com/2022/05/13/opinion/overturning-roe-democracy-equality.html
Shuran Huang for The New York Times
The Pro-Democracy Argument Against Roe Falters When It Meets Reality
By Jamelle Bouie, May 13, 2022
A significant part of the case against Roe v. Wade is that the Supreme Court was wrong to intervene in 1973 to recognize a constitutional right to abortion while the democratic process was still playing out. Better, instead, to have left the issue to the states — to voters and elected officials — who could then tailor their laws to their respective communities.
Justice Samuel Alito takes note of this in his draft opinion overruling Roe. “In some states,” he writes, “voters may believe that the abortion right should be even more extensive than the right that Roe and Casey recognized.” Voters in other states, he continues, “may wish to impose tight restrictions based on their belief that abortion destroys an ‘unborn human being.’” He concludes that “Our nation’s historical understanding of ordered liberty does not prevent the people’s elected representatives from deciding how abortion should be regulated.”
The end of Roe, in this telling, is a victory for democracy against judgeocracy.
That might be true, if Americans lived with fair and representative institutions. But they don’t. And even if they did, there’s more to democracy than just voting or the process of making a law.
Which is to say that the pro-democracy argument against Roe v. Wade and the constitutional right to have an abortion falters on a few key realities. The first relates to democratic government, or the lack thereof, in the states. The second relates to the expansion of state power inherent in any effective law against abortion. And the third concerns the intimate relationship between bodily autonomy and political equality.
On the first point, let’s begin with a little Madison. Among the most famous essays in American political thought is Federalist No. 10. In it, James Madison makes his case for the “extended republic” against naysayers who argue that the United States is too big to be a functional country with a representative government.
His argument, in brief, is that the smaller the republic, the more acute the “violence of faction” (defined here as a group united by “some common impulse of passion or of interest” and “adverse to the permanent and aggregate interests of the community”) to its citizens.
“The smaller the society,” Madison writes,
the fewer probably will be the distinct parties and interests composing it; the fewer the distinct parties and interests, the more frequently will a majority be found of the same party; and the smaller the number of individuals composing a majority, and the smaller the compass within which they are placed, the more easily will they concert and execute their plans of oppression.
He concludes that if you
extend the sphere, and you take in a greater variety of parties and interests; you make it less probable that a majority of the whole will have a common motive to invade the rights of other citizens; or if such a common motive exists, it will be more difficult for all who feel it to discover their own strength, and act in unison with each other.
Madison’s point is that a federal union will be less vulnerable to the “mischiefs of faction” than the states it comprises, that “the influence of factious leaders may kindle a flame within their particular states, but will be unable to spread a general conflagration through the other states.”
Now, Madison’s theory isn’t airtight (mostly because it doesn’t anticipate the emergence of national political parties), but it isn’t wrong either. It is easier for narrow factions to win power at the state level than for them to win control of the federal government.
And this, in essence, is what has happened with abortion.
Last year, in a review of public opinion data, the Pew Research Center found 14 states where a majority of adults agreed that “abortion should be illegal in all or most cases.” State legislatures in each may well outlaw the practice if the Supreme Court overrules Roe v. Wade. But so will legislatures in states where a majority of adults support legal abortion in all or most cases. Fifty-six percent of Florida adults, according to Pew, support the status quo under Roe. Despite this, Florida lawmakers have already passed a 15-week abortion ban. A similar situation exists in Oklahoma, where 51 percent of adults support the right to an abortion in most cases but where the Republican governor just signed a far stricter ban into law. Then there are states — like Arizona, Michigan and Wisconsin — where pre-Roe bans may take immediate effect if Roe is overturned.
But, Alito might say, if voters do not want their states to ban abortion, they can elect representatives who will then take steps to protect it.
That’s not so simple. Thanks to Alito’s own votes and opinions (and those of his conservative colleagues) in Shelby County v. Holder, Rucho v. Common Cause and Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee, state legislatures have nearly free rein to restrict voting, gerrymander in a hyperpartisan fashion and otherwise insulate themselves from democratic accountability.
A pro-Roe electoral majority might exist in Wisconsin, but the state Republican Party has gerrymandered itself into durable control of the legislature; it only needs a minority of voters to win a majority of seats. The same is true in states like Ohio and North Carolina where — according to a New York Times analysis of public opinion data — most adults support Roe.
In other words, there are a number of states — home to tens of millions of Americans — where voters may not actually have the power to elect lawmakers to protect the abortion rights they say they want. If states and state legislatures are supposed to be the places where democracy happens — and that itself is debatable — then these facts are a real challenge for the pro-democracy case against Roe.
Next is the matter of the abortion bans themselves.
Although anti-abortion activists insist that they intend only to penalize providers and clinics, lawmakers in Republican-led states have already introduced bills that would criminalize patients as well. But even if that weren’t the case, there’s simply no way to enforce an abortion ban without the state intruding deeply into women’s lives.
Think about what it would take to establish that someone had an illegal abortion. The state and its agents would need access to everything from search results, call histories, text messages and medical records to bank statements, social media posts and location data. It would need to turn its attention to anyone who may have helped, friends and family included. (To this point, the Texas bounty law extends legal liability in exactly this manner.)
The state would need to treat the womb — any womb — as a potential crime scene, with anything other than a healthy birth as evidence of a possible crime. A miscarriage or stillbirth would have to invite the same scrutiny as an abortion. There is no other place a total ban can go. Indeed, this kind of scrutiny is already part of daily life for many women, especially those who are either poor, nonwhite or both. The criminalization of pregnancy is not new, but it is poised to get much worse.
There’s a word for this, and it’s certainly not “democracy.”
Which brings us to the final problem with the idea that a world without Roe is somehow more democratic. Democracy rests, on paper at least, on the idea of political equality — that all citizens have equal standing and equal say when it comes to representation and political decision-making.
But equal standing is undermined and eroded when the state can effectively seize your person for its own ends — that is, when it can force you to give birth. And the erosion of political equality has social consequences; it leads to disregard and disrespect, to treating the people in question as a subordinate class.
We know this. Prisoners represent the most extreme end. They are citizens, but they are not political equals. We see it in our history as well; before Jim Crow, there was the decades-long effort to erode the already tenuous political standing of Black Americans in the aftermath of Reconstruction.
To put the right to have an abortion up for debate is to put the bodily autonomy of women up for debate. There’s no other way to spin it. It’s just the nature of the thing. And to put the bodily autonomy of women up for debate is to degrade their citizenship, their social standing and their political equality.
Assuming Roe is overturned, there may be more legislators casting votes over the right to have an abortion, but that’s not the same as more democracy. Just the opposite: States that ban abortion will undermine the values of democracy and curtail the liberty of their citizens. Subjected to surveillance and criminal scrutiny, people who give birth in those states — and those who support their right to privacy and bodily autonomy — will live with a degraded form of citizenship.
Democracy is substantive as well as procedural; it is a set of values as well as a set of processes. Our system can and should be much more representative than it is. But even if it were, a democracy that allows this strict control of reproduction — that curtails the rights of its citizens in this manner — isn’t worthy of the name.
Video showed police officers in Jerusalem beating and kicking mourners next to the coffin of Shireen Abu Akleh, an Al Jazeera reporter who was killed on Wednesday, forcing one to the ground.
By Patrick Kingsley and Raja Abdulrahim
JERUSALEM — Israeli police officers on Friday assaulted mourners at the funeral procession of a prominent Palestinian American journalist killed this week in the occupied West Bank, forcing pallbearers to nearly drop the coffin.
Video showed police officers in Jerusalem beating and kicking pallbearers carrying the coffin that contained the body of the journalist, Shireen Abu Akleh, forcing another mourner to the ground and pushing the pallbearers backward. Many around them waved Palestinian flags.
The incident occurred outside a hospital in East Jerusalem, where mourners had gathered to take the coffin of Ms. Abu Akleh, who was a Christian, to a nearby church for her funeral.
In a statement, the Israeli police said they “took enforcement action” after some mourners began chanting “nationalist incitement” and after police officers had given the crowd a warning. As the coffin was carried out of the hospital, police said, they were “forced to act” because “rioters began throwing stones toward the policemen.”
Ms. Abu Akleh was shot dead on Wednesday morning in the occupied West Bank during an Israeli raid on the city of Jenin. Witnesses said she was killed by an Israeli soldier.
The Israeli Army said on Friday that while it was possible Ms. Abu Akleh was mistakenly killed by Israeli fire, its initial investigation suggested that she might also have been hit by a Palestinian gunman.
On Thursday, Israeli police warned Ms. Abu Akleh’s family about displaying “flags and slogans” at the funeral, said Ahmad Tibi, a Palestinian member of the Knesset, Israel’s Parliament.
At one point during the funeral a man holding up a wreath stood between the pallbearers and police. Later, as the black hearse carrying her coffin began to slowly make its way through the crowd, an Israeli police officer ripped three Palestinian flags off the vehicle and threw them to the ground, video showed.
Church bells throughout the Old City rang out as mourners chanted, “With our souls, with our blood, we sacrifice for you, Shireen.”
A spokeswoman for Prime Minister Naftali Bennett of Israel declined to comment, as did a spokesman for the Israeli public security minister, Omer Bar Lev, who oversees the police.
The funeral was attended by thousands of people and came a day after a state memorial service was held in the West Bank city of Ramallah. Mourners stood in the courtyard of the Palestinian Authority’s presidential headquarters to eulogize and bid farewell to a person considered by many Palestinians to be a trailblazing journalist.
The Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, awarded her the Star of Jerusalem, also known as the Quds Star. One of the highest honors the Palestinian president can bestow, it is traditionally awarded to ministers, ambassadors and members of Parliament. Mr. Abbas described Ms. Abu Akleh as a “martyr for truth and for the free word.”
She will be buried in Mount Zion Protestant Cemetery, next to her parents.
Hiba Yazbek contributed reporting from Nazareth, Israel, and Iyad Abu Hweila from Gaza City.
Women inmates are less dangerous than incarcerated men. Their prisons should reflect that reality.
By Ginia Bellafante, May 14, 2022
Ginia Bellafante writes the Big City column, a weekly commentary on the politics, culture and life of New York City.
The Rose M. Singer Center — known to inmates as “Rosie’s” — houses women detainees on the Rikers Island Prison Complex. Credit...Bryan Thomas for The New York Times
One Saturday morning in 1992, as she was coming home from a night shift as a home health aide, Sharon White got off the subway a few stops early at Gun Hill Road in the Bronx, hoping to find a bathroom. At the station, she ran into a high-school friend, Judy, whom she had not seen in a long time and who offered to take her to the apartment of a man she was dating. It wasn’t far away, and she could use the bathroom at his place. Ms. White took her up on the offer and left the apartment after a few minutes. Sometime later, she realized that her purse was missing, so the next morning she went back to the apartment in hopes of retrieving it.
When she arrived, Judy’s friend told her he had not seen it but that she was welcome to come in and look around. Unable to find the purse, she began to leave. It was at that point that he grabbed her arm and pinned her against a sink.
“I wanted him off me,” she told me recently. “He was choking me. I understood that this guy had been drinking.” There was a roommate in the apartment but he did not respond to her screaming. So she grabbed a knife, stabbed the man who was trying to rape her and ran off.
As a result, Ms. White (now the Rev. Sharon White-Harrigan) would spend a year at Rikers Island on a manslaughter charge and another decade at Bedford Hills Correctional Facility in Westchester County. During that time, her mother died and her daughter grew up, and she took stock of the many flaws in the system, chief among them “that the law does not meet trauma,” as she explained it.
Four years ago, she helped found an organization called the Women’s Community Justice Association, with the aim of improving the lives of incarcerated women. Recently, she has been focused on getting the women’s facility at Rikers closed ahead of schedule.
Conditions at New York City’s largest jail are notoriously bad, but little attention has been paid to the circumstances of female detainees, 80 percent of whom are mothers and 77 percent of whom are victims of domestic violence. Currently, the city plans to close Rikers entirely and move to a system of smaller “community” jails in Manhattan, Brooklyn, the Bronx and Queens by 2027. But the Rose M. Singer jail — incongruously known as “Rosie’s” — will be the very last to shut down, even though women are far less likely to get into trouble while incarcerated and far less likely to reoffend, according to Vincent Schiraldi, the city’s former corrections commissioner. In 2019, women arrested in New York were 49 percent less likely than men to be arrested for a violent crime within one year.
Of the roughly 5,400 people currently kept at Rikers, only around 300 are women. What confounds Ms. White-Harrigan and Mr. Schiraldi, who now presides over Columbia University’s Justice Lab, is the city’s plan to move the female population to a facility in Queens that would have to be built from the ground up and that would be connected to a men’s jail. As several members of the New York State Legislature put it in a letter to Gov. Kathy Hochul asking for an alternative, the proximity puts women at risk of exposure to their abusers.
As it happens, there is an alternative, whose implementation ought to be self-evident. Advocates are proposing that the women be moved to a vacant state prison in Harlem, shuttered in 2019 and closer to some of the neighborhoods in which many women entering the system are coming from, crucially making it easier for their families to visit, which is known to reduce recidivism.
The argument made in a recent paper produced by the Justice Lab and Women’s Community Justice Association is that prisons have been historically designed for men and have neglected the particular needs of women — chiefly that they are caregivers and that they so often have been the victims of violent crime. In effect, rehabilitation, including therapy, should begin immediately, the entry process sped up so that women aren’t spending days in central booking without access to a shower, for example. And more women, the paper argues, should be on staff at the facility.
“Everybody who stands before a judge, their history is really not there,” Ms. White-Harrigan told me. “It’s pieced together by people who don’t really know the story. The system already has a narrative about you.” By the time that she was arrested for stabbing her attacker years ago, Ms. White-Harrigan had already suffered through an abusive relationship. “The thought of someone trying to violate you is unbearable,” she said.
Ultimately, the decision to move in this direction will be up to the governor and Mayor Eric Adams, who has not expressed especially progressive leanings around changes in the jail system.
“What I want is for people to get their trauma treated,” Ms. White-Harrigan said. “Trauma is the driver of a lot of things. Subconsciously, you have this built-up anger. In this new place, we want to operate from a healing perspective. Even if someone had to go upstate for some time, she would know that she is on the pathway to healing and wellness.
“This isn’t just about creating a new building,” she added. “It is about a creating a new culture that allows people to get to where they need to be. There is justice without punishment. You can hold people accountable without leaving them worse than when they came in.”
By Jesse McKinley, Alex Traub and Troy Closson
The Tops grocery store in Buffalo, where 10 people were killed on Saturday in a mass shooting. Credit...Malik Rainey for The New York Times
BUFFALO — A teenage gunman espousing a white supremacist ideology known as replacement theory opened fire at a supermarket in Buffalo on Saturday, methodically shooting and killing 10 people and injuring three more, almost all of them Black, in one of the deadliest racist massacres in recent American history.
The authorities identified the gunman as 18-year-old Payton S. Gendron of Conklin, a small town in New York’s rural Southern Tier. Mr. Gendron drove more than 200 miles to mount his attack, which he also live streamed, the police said, a chilling video feed that appeared designed to promote his sinister agenda.
Shortly after Mr. Gendron was captured, a manifesto believed to have been posted online by the gunman emerged, riddled with racist, anti-immigrant views that claimed white Americans were at risk of being replaced by people of color. In the video that appeared to have been captured by the camera affixed to his helmet, an anti-Black racial slur can be seen on the barrel of his weapon.
The attack, at a Tops Friendly Market in a largely Black neighborhood in east Buffalo, conjured grim comparisons to a series of other massacres motivated by racism, including the killing of nine Black parishioners at a church in Charleston, S.C., in 2015; an antisemitic rampage in a Pittsburgh synagogue in 2018 that left 11 people dead; and an attack at a Walmart in El Paso in 2019, where the man charged had expressed hatred of Latinos. More than 20 people died there.
In the Buffalo grocery store, where four employees were shot, the savagery and planning were evident: Mr. Gendron was armed with an assault weapon and wore body armor, the police said. And his preferred victims seemed clear as well: All told, 11 of the people shot were Black and two were white, the authorities said.
“It was a straight up racially motivated hate crime,” John Garcia, the Erie County sheriff, said.
Nearly two weeks after the leak of a draft Supreme Court opinion overturning Roe v. Wade, protesters gathered in Washington, New York and other cities.
By Madeleine Ngo and Lola Fadulu, May 14, 2022https://www.nytimes.com/2022/05/14/us/abortion-rights-march.html
WASHINGTON — In the nation’s capital, protesters marched to the Supreme Court in the rain while chanting “We will not go back” and “Abortion is a human right.” In New York, thousands crossed the Brooklyn Bridge. And in Los Angeles, demonstrators filled a park near City Hall to show their support for abortion rights.
Thousands of protesters converged in cities across the country on Saturday, nearly two weeks after the leak of a Supreme Court draft opinion that would overturn Roe v. Wade. Gathering near the Washington Monument, some wore shirts that read “Bans Off Our Bodies” and “Keep Abortion Safe and Legal.” They vowed to fight to preserve abortion rights, even as some accepted that Roe would most likely be overturned.
Colleen Lunsford, 42, a lawyer from Arlington, Va., brought her 5-year-old daughter, Orla. Pointing to her daughter, she said she attended the march for “her future and autonomy.”
“I’m terrified,” Ms. Lunsford said. “We did our best to elect a Democratic president and House and Senate, and this is still happening.”
More than 450 marches were set to take place in cities across the country on Saturday, including Chicago, Nashville, and Austin, Texas, according to Rachel O’Leary Carmona, the executive director of the Women’s March, a nonprofit organization that helped coordinate the events.
Organizers had been planning a national march for abortion rights before the draft opinion leaked, but they fast-tracked Saturday’s events after the draft was published. Ms. O’Leary Carmona said she hoped the events would allow demonstrators to “build power, both civically and electorally.”
“Folks are mobilizing because they see that the hour is later than we thought,” she said.
The marches took place after the publication this month of the draft opinion, which showed that the Supreme Court appeared poised to overturn Roe, the landmark 1973 decision that established a constitutional right to abortion. The court’s ruling is not expected until June or early July.
With the midterm elections months away, President Biden and congressional Democrats are hoping to use the issue to energize voters. Democratic senators failed on Wednesday to advance legislation to guarantee abortion rights nationwide in the face of opposition from Republicans and one Democrat, Senator Joe Manchin III of West Virginia.
In Washington, Elizabeth Moser, 34, a communications specialist from Burke, Va., said she hoped the marches would galvanize voters and politicians.
Although she had been planning to vote in the midterms, she said she was now considering driving people to the polls and texting her friends to encourage them to attend other rallies in support of abortion rights.
“I’m out here trying to build a movement,” said Ms. Moser, who wore a red bandanna and held up a sign that read, “I will not go quietly back to the 1950s.”
At around 2 p.m., demonstrators began the walk to the Supreme Court as No Doubt’s “Just a Girl” blared from speakers and light rain began to fall, dampening posters.
Gazing at the crowd, Alla Stepanov, 26, a chemist who drove to the rally from Baltimore, said she was excited to see the show of solidarity. Still, she said she was not sure what the Supreme Court would ultimately decide.
“I never thought that someone like Trump would be elected,” she said. “I thought that was a joke until it wasn’t a joke. So in these recent years, I kind of don’t know what to expect. I don’t have a lot of trust.”
There were few counterprotesters. One man standing on the sidewalk beside marchers condemned the demonstration and carried a black sign with flames around the edges that read, “Jesus Is Coming Very Soon.” Over the noise of protesters chanting “My body, my choice,” the man said he would “never shut up.”
In Brooklyn, thousands of abortion rights supporters gathered in Cadman Plaza Park before marching to Foley Square in Lower Manhattan. Volunteers offered snacks and signs with phrases like “Stand With Black Women.”
Several elected officials led the group for a while on the way to Foley Square, including Mayor Eric Adams; Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand; and Letitia James, the state attorney general. They walked behind a green banner that read: “Our Bodies Our Abortions.”
City Councilwoman Crystal Hudson, who represents several neighborhoods in Brooklyn, said she was especially concerned about what overturning Roe would mean for low-income and Black and brown people.
“We need to make sure that we’re doing everything in our power to maintain access and keep abortion legal,” Ms. Hudson said.
Khloe Rains, 35, a college student, said she was devastated and angry when she learned about the draft ruling.
“Without abortion, I would not be here,” said Ms. Rains, who stood in the Brooklyn park with her 5-month-old daughter, Hendrix, and 3-year-old son, Jagger. At five months pregnant in November 2020, she said, she started losing large amounts of blood, forcing her medical providers to perform an abortion to save her life.
“I very much wanted my daughter,” she said, “but I was bleeding and there was nothing they could do.”
For some, protesting the draft opinion was not just about protecting the right to abortion.
Lillian Penafiel, 35, and her wife, Emi Penafiel, 44, worried about what the court’s ruling could mean for marriage equality, L.G.B.T.Q. rights and voting rights.
“They’ve been very clear, especially what was written up, that our rights are going to be threatened as well, too, so that’s why we’re nervous,” said Emi Penafiel. “They’re coming after all of it.”
Many parents came with their children. Sonia Reiter, 41, who is pregnant, brought her 5-year-old son, Casio Coleman, to the march to educate him on the importance of choice, she said.
“Casio, how did we talk about today’s protest, what’d we say?” Ms. Reiter asked her son. “If someone wants to be pregnant, they should be pregnant — and if they don’t want to be pregnant?”
“They shouldn’t,” he replied, beaming at his mother.
In Los Angeles, protesters filled Grand Park in front of City Hall and chanted phrases such as, “We won’t go back, we won’t back down!” An estimated 5,000 people were on hand.
Senator Alex Padilla, Democrat of California, took the stage to lament the potential demise of Roe, vowing to fight for the right to abortion in every state.
“We will not stand by and watch while extremist politicians make rules for your body,” Mr. Padilla said. “You make the right decisions for your own body. No one else.”
Renee Chanon, 84, said she has been campaigning for women’s rights since the 1970s, when she first began protesting in support of the Equal Rights Amendment. Now, half a century later, she said she was demonstrating against what she called a “horrifying” leaked opinion.
“It’s hard to believe that we’re still doing the same thing, but then, if you look at your history, you’ll see that it took us almost 100 years to win the right to vote,” Ms. Chanon said. “That’s just what it’s taken and what it’s going to take in our society.”
Whatever the cost of any student loan cancellation program, it’ll just be money we should have spent on higher education in the first place.
By Ron Lieber, May 13, 2022
Let’s stop the conversation about student loan forgiveness and start one about the necessity of saying we’re sorry.
After all, it’s not the borrowers who did anything wrong — it’s the country. We’re the ones who should be asking their forgiveness.
Teenagers go to college because we tell them to. Many people in their 20s pursue graduate education because an advanced degree is what they need to prosecute criminals, cure cancer and teach or counsel those teenagers.
And for decades we’ve failed these students over and over.
We’ve left them mostly on their own to pay for the betterment of themselves and society, and then heaped one administrative burden after another on them along the way.
Pell Grants should be renamed in honor of Ebenezer Scrooge. Franz Kafka appears to have written the rules governing our student debt system, while Rube Goldberg collects the monthly payments.
And if you can’t pay? The legal guidelines in bankruptcy court often demand that those wanting out from under their student loans quite literally have a “certainty of hopelessness.” Those woebegone souls must prostrate themselves in front of judges, begging their honors to declare them complete and total failures.
Forgiveness for these sins might — might — be reasonable. After all, plenty of policymakers were at least trying to do the right thing along the way as this slow-motion monstrosity came into focus.
If President Biden removes $10,000 of federal student loan debt per borrower, it would total $321 billion, according to Federal Reserve Bank of New York estimates. That would leave 69 percent of debtors with remaining balances.
That is a large dollar figure, but its size ought to help reframe the national conversation around what we owe the victims of this scandalous failure of public policy. This is especially true for the roughly 40 percent of borrowers who acquired some debt but did not get a degree after six years — and thus lack the earning power that a diploma often brings, according to Mark Huelsman, the director of policy and advocacy at the Hope Center for College, Community and Justice at Temple University, who looked at students entering in the 2011-12 school year.
Still not convinced that the nation should ask debtors for absolution, and not the other way around? Consider the facts.
First, there’s the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, which for decades has yoked millions of students and families each year to its cumbersome form, confusing questions and confounding — and infuriating — “expected family contribution.” New legislation brings the number of questions down to a maximum of 36 from 108, but it, too, is so complex that it’s taking years to fully carry out the changes. And that does nothing to address the chasm that exists between what the federal system (and a second one, the CSS Profile, that many private colleges use) “expects” and what feels realistic to many families.
So what about Pell Grants?
They were named for Senator Claiborne Pell in 1980, though earlier versions existed for years because it had long been clear that the lowest-income teenagers couldn’t afford many colleges. But the help those grants offer has dwindled because legislators did not set the annual amount per person to track any index of college costs.
Phillip Levine, a Wellesley College economics professor and the author of a new book called “A Problem of Fit: How the Complexity of Pricing Hurts Students — and Universities,” has calculated just how far short this can leave low-income students.
Take teenagers from households with about $37,000 in income, which is about the 25th percentile of income and assets. By his calculations, the public schools he examined will ask the students who live on campus to pay around $14,000 each year, after accounting for Pell Grants and other scholarships. Even if these students max out their federal loans — $5,500 for most of those freshmen — and take a job via the federal work-study program, there will still be thousands of dollars each year left to cover. No one is minding that gap.
As we ask these teenagers to borrow tens of thousands of dollars that we’d never lend them for anything else, the government provides a menu of loan options. With some of this debt, interest starts ticking right away, years before you can even have a legal beer.
There wouldn’t be so much of a debt problem if, as a nation, we made a priority of subsidizing public higher education. But we don’t. Among the 26 nations that the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development surveys, only Britain has higher average tuition for public universities than the United States.
Things don’t look much better when you examine American states. Appropriations per student in 2020 were exactly where they were in 1994, according to the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association. But over the same 26-year period, net tuition revenue per student has risen 71 percent to $6,726 a year.
If you think the borrowing is bad, we make it worse through the dystopian nightmare that is repayment. If only we could be Australia, which has a dead-simple system. The taxing authorities there help determine what you must pay: The more you make, the higher the percentage of your income that you shell out. Young adults there are aghast at how much their American peers must struggle with the bureaucracy we’ve painstakingly constructed.
Federal student loan borrowers are blessed with so-called servicers who handle their pile of individual loans. The indebted repay these loans, of which there are multiple types, through at least half a dozen types of repayment plans.
Borrowers don’t get to choose their servicer, but they do suffer the consequences when, as all manner of government investigators have noted repeatedly, the servicer makes a hash of the process by giving them terrible advice when they ask for help.
These servicers have often failed to help borrowers qualify for one good thing the government has done for borrowers: the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program. It is supposed to allow those serving the public good to have their debts wiped out after 120 months of payments. The result was a decade-long mess that the Biden administration has tried to fix.
There are other ways to qualify for loan cancellation. You could be a victim of fraud if your school misled you, which was the case for thousands of students who attended for-profit colleges. That relief program ground to a near halt during the Trump administration, but at least there’s some progress lately.
Another way: You can spend a couple of decades not making enough money to afford your loan payments. If you get into one of the federal income-driven repayment plans and make payments for 20 or 25 years (it depends on your plan, of course) without paying off all you owe, the government will cancel your remaining balance. If you do end up with that result — and your servicer (or servicers) correctly tracked your payment history — you could get a tax bill, since our laws state that many forms of canceled debt are actually income. America!
And if it just becomes impossible — your partner gets sick, your child gets sick, your parent gets sick — even bankruptcy is unlikely to help. Unlike any other debt, federal student loans are often subject to that unique and horrifying standard: the certainty of hopelessness.
How did the bankruptcy rules for student loans get so harsh? Here’s one reason: Back in 2005, a senator named Joe Biden sided with legislators who wanted to make things a whole lot harder for many student loan borrowers to discharge their debt, fearing that fledgling doctors, lawyers and others would game the system to get off scot-free.
Mr. Biden was defensive about this on the campaign trail, but his platform promised relief of all sorts. I’d like to think that his refusal thus far to rule out loan cancellation comes, at least in part, from his own guilt over what has happened since 2005.
Whether or not Mr. Biden does cancel any debt, our nation owes student loan borrowers an apology, which he might as well deliver himself.
And if that apology does come with loan cancellation, consider it payback for all the support that tens of millions of teenagers never had in the first place.
The president also signed off on targeting about a dozen Shabab leaders in the war-torn country, from which Donald J. Trump largely withdrew in his final weeks in office.
By Charlie Savage and Eric Schmitt, May 16, 2022
A Somali soldier patrolling near the presidential palace after a car bombing in Mogadishu, the capital, in September. The Biden administration’s goal in Somalia is to try to reduce the threat from Shabab terrorists. Credit...Farah Abdi Warsameh/Associated Press
WASHINGTON — President Biden has signed an order authorizing the military to once again deploy hundreds of Special Operations forces inside Somalia — largely reversing the decision by President Donald J. Trump to withdraw nearly all 700 ground troops who had been stationed there, according to four officials familiar with the matter.
In addition, Mr. Biden has approved a Pentagon request for standing authority to target about a dozen suspected leaders of Al Shabab, the Somali terrorist group that is affiliated with Al Qaeda, three of the officials said. Since Mr. Biden took office, airstrikes have largely been limited to those meant to defend partner forces facing an immediate threat.
Together, the decisions by Mr. Biden, described by the officials on the condition of anonymity, will revive an open-ended American counterterrorism operation that has amounted to a slow-burn war through three administrations. The move stands in contrast to his decision last year to pull American forces from Afghanistan, saying that “it is time to end the forever war.”
Mr. Biden signed off on the proposal by Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III in early May, officials said. In a statement, Adrienne Watson, the National Security Council spokeswoman, acknowledged the move, saying it would enable “a more effective fight against Al Shabab.”
“The decision to reintroduce a persistent presence was made to maximize the safety and effectiveness of our forces and enable them to provide more efficient support to our partners,” she said.
Ms. Watson did not indicate the number of troops the military would deploy. But two people familiar with the matter said the figure would be capped at around 450. That will replace a system in which the U.S. troops training and advising Somali and African Union forces have made short stays since Mr. Trump issued what Ms. Watson described as a “precipitous decision to withdraw.”
The Biden administration’s strategy in Somalia is to try to reduce the threat from Al Shabab by suppressing its ability to plot and carry out complicated operations, a senior administration official said. Those include a deadly attack on an American air base at Manda Bay, Kenya, in January 2020.
In particular, the official said, targeting a small leadership cadre — especially people who are suspected of playing roles in developing plots outside Somalia’s borders or having special skills — is aimed at curtailing “the threat to a level that is tolerable.”
Asked to square the return to heavier engagement in Somalia with the American withdrawal from Afghanistan last year, following through on a deal Mr. Trump had made with the Taliban, the senior administration official argued that the two countries presented significantly different complexities.
For one, the official said, the Taliban have not expressed an intention of attacking the United States, and other militant groups in Afghanistan do not control significant enclaves of territory from which to operate and plan.
Given that Al Shabab appears to pose a more significant threat, the administration concluded that more direct engagement in Somalia made sense, the official said. The strategy would focus on disrupting a few Shabab leaders who are deemed a direct peril to “us, and our interests and our allies,” and maintaining “very carefully cabined presence on the ground to be able to work with our partners.”
Intelligence officials estimate that Al Shabab has about 5,000 to 10,000 members; the group, which formally pledged allegiance to Al Qaeda in 2012, has sought to impose its extremist version of Islam on the chaotic Horn of Africa country.
While Al Shabab mostly fights inside Somalia and only occasionally attacks neighboring countries, some members are said to harbor ambitions to strike the United States. In December 2020, prosecutors in Manhattan charged an accused Shabab operative from Kenya with plotting a Sept. 11-style attack on an American city. He had been arrested in the Philippines as he trained to fly planes.
Mr. Biden’s decision followed months of interagency deliberations led by the White House’s top counterterrorism adviser, Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall, over whether to accept the Pentagon plan, maintain the status quo or further reduce engagement in Somalia.
In evaluating those options, Ms. Sherwood-Randall and other top security officials visited Somalia and nearby Kenya and Djibouti, both of which host American forces, in October.
The administration’s deliberations about whether and how to more robustly go back into Somalia have been complicated by political chaos there, as factions in its fledgling government fought each other and elections were delayed. But Somalia recently elected a new parliament, and over the weekend, leaders selected a new president, deciding to return to power Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, who led the country from 2012 to 2017.
For months, American commanders have warned that the short-term training missions that U.S. Special Operations forces have conducted in Somalia since Mr. Trump withdrew most American troops in January 2021 have not worked well. The morale and capacity of the partner units have been eroding, they say.
Of each eight-week cycle, the senior administration official said, American trainers spend about three unengaged with partner forces because the Americans were either not in Somalia or focused on transit — and the travel in and out was the most dangerous part. Other officials have also characterized the system of rotating in and out, rather than being persistently deployed there, as expensive and inefficient.
“Our periodic engagement — also referred to as commuting to work — has caused new challenges and risks for our troops,” Gen. Stephen J. Townsend, the head of the Pentagon’s Africa Command, told the Senate Armed Services Committee in March. “My assessment is that it is not effective.”
Intelligence officials have raised growing alarm about Al Shabab over the past several years as it has expanded its territory in Somalia. In its final year in office, the Obama administration had deemed Al Shabab to be part of the armed conflict the United States authorized against the perpetrators of the Sept. 11 attacks.
Once Mr. Trump became president, he loosened controls on airstrikes there, and the Pentagon significantly escalated American combat activity. But shortly before leaving office, Mr. Trump ordered most American troops to pull out of Somalia — except for a small force that has guarded American diplomats at a bunker by the airport in Mogadishu.
On its first day in office, the Biden administration suspended a permissive set of targeting rules put in place by the Trump administration, instead requiring requests for strikes — except in self-defense — to be routed through the White House. (Africa Command also invoked that exception for strikes undertaken in the “collective” self-defense of Somali partner forces.)
That pause was supposed to take only a few months while the Biden administration reviewed how targeting rules had worked under both the Trump and Obama administrations and devised its own. But even though it has largely completed a proposed replacement described as a hybrid between the two preceding versions, final approval of that has stalled amid competing national security policy matters.
The military, for its part, has tried to continue training, advising and assisting Somali and African Union forces without a persistent presence on the ground, but gradually increased the length of shorter stays. During a visit to Somalia in February, General Townsend warned of the threat Al Shabab posed to the region.
“Al Shabab remains Al Qaeda’s largest, wealthiest and most deadly affiliate, responsible for the deaths of thousands of innocents, including Americans,” he said. “Disrupting Al Shabab’s malign intent requires leadership from Somalis and continued support from Djibouti, Kenya, the U.S. and other members of the international community.”
By James Fallows, May 17, 2022https://www.nytimes.com/2022/05/17/books/review/uncertain-ground-phil-klay.html
Citizenship in an Age of Endless, Invisible War
By Phil Klay
At first I thought Phil Klay had made a mistake in collecting his nonfiction magazine, newspaper and online work from the past dozen years into a new book, “Uncertain Ground.”
Klay’s first book, “Redeployment,” in 2014, was an achievement hard to match. It was a group of 12 short stories set in wartime Iraq, where Klay had been a Marine Corps public affairs officer during the “surge” of 2007-8. Among other recognitions it won the National Book Award for fiction, plus enthusiastic reviews both from those with extensive military experience and from those with none. Six years later, he published “Missionaries,” a novel of ideas based on the drug-and-guerrilla wars of Colombia. Its admirers included Barack Obama, who chose it as one of his books of the year.
News-pegged opinion essays don’t always age well. My reading of “Uncertain Ground” started with some of the shorter items in it, the op-eds and blog posts — for instance, a newspaper piece on how the killing of the Iranian Quds Force commander Qassim Suleimani in 2020 might affect fighting in Iraq. Most of these, I thought, now looked like journalistic “takes” from their particular moments, written while emotions and reactions were still fresh, and meant to be read under those same conditions, rather than months or years later.
But the rule of most writing — the shorter, the better — appears not to apply to Klay’s nonfiction. The half-dozen longest, meatiest and most probing essays and articles presented here share the lasting power of Klay’s acclaimed fiction. They were published separately, in different places over a decade-plus span. But read together they amount to an interwoven, evolving and revealing examination of Klay’s central topic: What it means for a country always at war, that so few of its people do the fighting.
“War remains a large part of who we are as Americans,” he writes in his introduction, “with almost a sixth of our federal budget going to defense, keeping troops deployed in 800 military bases around the world and engaging in counterterror missions in 85 countries. And yet, thanks to a series of political and strategic choices, to the average American that’s mostly invisible.”
Firsthand exposure to the country’s “long wars” has been almost unbelievably concentrated. All the Americans who have served in Iraq, Afghanistan or any other U.S. combat theater at any time since the 9/11 attacks of 2001 together amount to around 1 percent of the nation’s public. The best of these essays combine reporting, with Klay’s observations from his own military service, with historical evidence and spiritual reflections, all to help illuminate the “invisible” world of this 1 percent.
For instance, “A History of Violence,” written after the Las Vegas gun massacre of 2017, explains how what is now America’s most widely owned rifle, the AR-15, arose from the military’s quest for a lightweight weapon that could do maximum damage through high-volume “area fire,” rather than relying on carefully aimed sniper shots. He also recounts the grisly sequence of experiments in “wound ballistics” that guided the choice of ammunition for the AR-15 and its military descendant, the M16. (According to his family, the AR-15’s designer, Eugene Stoner, never imagined this weapon in civilian hands.) With a slightly modified AR-15, the Las Vegas gunman was able to kill 58 people and wound at least 400 more. “There was nothing particularly remarkable about the shooter’s skills,” Klay writes. “His lethality was primarily a function of the sheer number of rounds he could put downrange.”
“Citizen Soldier: Moral Risk and the Modern Military,” originally a Brookings essay, is about the invisibility of the 1 percent who have worn the uniform — and the resentment many veterans feel not for mistreatment but for cheap “thank you for your service!” rituals that mask a deeper indifference to the physical, emotional and moral costs of war. Klay writes, “It’s that sense of a personal stake in war that the veteran experiences viscerally, and which is so hard for the civilian to feel.”
And in “Man of War,” for the Jesuit magazine America, Klay explains at length how serving in the Marine Corps gave him an almost religious sense of community and mission, whose absence he felt on return to civilian life. As a Marine, he writes, “I was given the stories of military saints — men and women who risked their lives under enemy fire, who jumped on hand grenades to save their buddies, who held faith with their fellow prisoners of war during years of torture. … Out of the Corps, I was deprived of that community and not yet fully absorbed into the civilian world. … I was alienated, as so many veterans have been before.”
What does Klay ask of the other 99 percent of Americans? It starts with seriousness about the consequences of going to war. He dares dream of an America in which a president would “regularly go before Congress to explain where and why he was putting troops in harm’s way” — and of a Congress that would have to vote up or down on the plans. But he connects those stakes to the daily obligations of citizenship under the Constitution, which all service members must take an oath to defend.
“No civilian can assume the moral burdens felt at a gut level by participants in war, but all can show an equal commitment to their country,” he writes. “Ideals are one thing; the messy business of putting them into practice is another. That means giving up on any claim to moral purity. That means getting your hands dirty.”
It turns out that I was the one making a mistake about this book. It is engrossing and important, and I hope readers will start with the longest parts first.
My NYT Comment:
War is endemic to capitalism itself. It's a system that puts profit—the private profits of the few over the health and welfare of the many. It has nothing to do with democracy. We, the many, have no vote on wars or on war budgets. We have no vote on laws that govern wars. The wealthy and their children do not shed their blood on the battlefield. And death on the battlefield is not only shared by the soldiers, but by civilians—innocent men, women and children and the infrastructure that surrounds them. And all of them are in the same predicament. They are cannon fodder for the wealthy who profit from wars designed to maintain their wealth and power at any cost as long as it's not their cost! Money spent on human needs worldwide would end the cause of all wars once and for all. —Bonnie Weinstein
By David Wallace-Wells, May 17, 2022https://www.nytimes.com/2022/05/17/opinion/india-heat-wave-pakistan-climate-change.html
It doesn’t take the end of the world to upend the way billions live in it. The punishing weather we are uneasily learning to call “normal” is doing that already.
Late last month, a heat wave swallowed South Asia, bringing temperatures to more than a billion people — one-fifth of the entire human population — 10 degrees warmer than the one imagined in the opening pages of Kim Stanley Robinson’s celebrated climate novel, “The Ministry for the Future,” where a similar event on the subcontinent quickly kills 20 million. It is now weeks later, and the heat wave is still continuing. Real relief probably won’t come before the monsoons in June.
Mercifully, according to the young science of “heat death,” air moisture is as important as temperature for triggering human mortality, and when thermometers hit 115 degrees Fahrenheit in India and 120 in Pakistan in April, the humidity was quite low. But even so, in parts of India, humidity was still high enough that if the day’s peak moisture had coincided with its peak heat, the combination would have produced “wet-bulb temperatures” — which integrate measures of both into a single figure — already at or past the limit for human survivability. Birds fell dead from the sky.
In Pakistan, the heat melted enough of the Shipsher glacier to produce what’s called a “glacial lake outburst flood,” destroying two power stations and the historic Hassanabad Bridge, on the road to China.
After a brief lull, the temperatures and humidity began to rise again. On May 14, it was 51 degrees Celsius in Jacobabad, a city of almost 200,000, with a “wet-bulb” reading of 33.1 — just below the conventional estimate for the threshold of human survival, which is 35. More recently, scientists have suggested a lower threshold, even for the young and healthy, of just 31 degrees Celsius. Ten weeks in, the heat wave is testing those limits.
But just as remarkable as the intensity and duration of the South Asian heat wave is the fact that it is, already, not much of an anomaly at all.
We want to call events like this “extreme,” but technically we can’t, “because they’re not rare anymore,” Friederike Otto told me, from London, just as the heat wave reached its April peak.
Dr. Otto is a senior lecturer at the Grantham Institute for Climate Change at the Imperial College of London, whose World Weather Attribution group just published a “state of the science” briefing. Among other things, it concluded that climate change has made every single heat wave in the world both more intense and more likely.
She is herself a leading figure in the emerging field of climate attribution, which has grown increasingly central to the messy project of making sense of environmental and ecological disarray. With the impacts of warming growing evermore unmistakable, we no longer ask science only what to expect from further warming, but also how to quantify, categorize, conceptualize and narrativize the climatic anomalies we now encounter, somewhere in the world, almost daily.
A U.N. report published in April suggested that by just 2030 the world would be experiencing more than 500 major disasters each year. And the quickening frequency of what were once called “generational disasters” or “500-year storms” or even “acts of God” disorients us, too, so that it becomes hard to distinguish once-a-decade events from once-a-century ones — our disaster depth of field blurred by climate disruption. “What used to be a very extreme event is now probably not a very extreme event but something that we expect in this warmer climate quite frequently,” Dr. Otto said. “We really are in a quite different world.”
Different worlds, really, since the gaps in climate impacts between the global north and the global south are unconscionably large today, and growing. It should not surprise you to see, over the next year or two, wet-bulb data added to your generic weather app — just as, over the past few years, they have each added air quality data. That innovation can help response and aid precautions when air quality is bad. It has also meant that as I watched the South Asian heat wave unfold on my phone from New York — a string of days in New Delhi with highs above 110 degrees Fahrenheit — I could also track the local pollution. The famously smoggy city never registered an “air quality index” below 300 — a level that is meant to trigger health warnings of emergency conditions.
For a few years, I’ve startled people by pointing out that over half of all of the emissions from the burning of fossil fuels that have ever been produced in the history of humanity have been produced in the past 30 years — since Al Gore published his first book on warming; since the U.N. established its climate-change body, the I.P.C.C.; since the premiere of “Friends.” But it is perhaps even more astonishing to consider just how fast the temperature is rising. As recently as 2015, the 10-year average of global temperatures showed, according to the I.P.C.C., warming of 0.87 degrees Celsius above the preindustrial average. Just five years later, it had jumped to 1.09 — 25 percent higher in half a decade.
When sociologists talk about “shifting baseline syndrome,” they mean we tend to base expectations for the future on our memory of the recent past. But just five years ago, it was exceedingly rare for more than a million acres to burn in a California wildfire season; today the record is 4.3 million acres, and in four of the past five years more than 1.5 million acres burned in the state alone. Over the past decade, extreme heat events have grown 90 times more common, according to one study, compared with a baseline of frequency between 1950 and 1980.
This shift is not just disorienting to lay people. The supercomputer math gets tricky, too, when warming moves so fast that any climate baseline extends for only a few years.
“I think we don’t actually know what this new normal or emerging normal will feel like,” Dr. Otto said, “because the temperature and greenhouse gases have increased so fast, and by so much, over just the last decade that we haven’t really had time to experience what that means. And we are starting to witness events that would not have been possible, and that we could have not really imagined to be possible, without climate change.”
For Dr. Otto, exhibit A is the “heat dome” that settled over the Pacific Northwest last summer, delivering Death Valley-like temperatures to temperate British Columbia — recently identified as one of the six most anomalous heat waves in recorded history. The South Asian heat wave almost qualifies as a nonevent if you are tracing the amplitude of climate anomalies. But the heat dome? “There we have seen what an extreme event looks like in a warmer world,” Dr. Otto said.
How extreme? Probably a one-in-a-thousand-year event, Dr. Otto estimates, given today’s climate conditions. But at just two degrees of warming it will happen once a decade, on average.
When I asked Dr. Otto what the probability of such an event would have been in the preindustrial era, before humans began haphazardly re-engineering the climate, she laughed. “It’s statistically impossible,” she said — so unlikely that the question was effectively “meaningless.” But she indulged me and guessed it would have probably happened about once every eight million years. Run the entire history of modern humans 25 times over without industrialization, that is, and you get the Pacific heat dome just once.
When anomalies arrive every day, the eye-popping extremes are even more so. The one I keep returning to is this chart:
That red dot is a temperature reading at Concordia station in Antarctica, taken on March 18, that was 38.5 degrees Celsius — almost 70 degrees Fahrenheit — above average. It was 20 degrees Celsius above the previous March record. On the graph of historical temperatures, it is high enough above the band marking all readings ever recorded there that it looks less like the sign of a warming planet than proof we’ve already landed on another one.
In a certain way, we have: A little more than one degree of global warming may not sound like much, but it means that the planet is already warmer today than at any point in the history of human civilization — warmer than any world any human has ever known. In that kind of world, which is ours, global averages often flatten and obscure as much as they illuminate. A 70-degree anomaly in New York City would be 122 degrees Fahrenheit in March, 134 in April and 142 in May. In Rio de Janeiro, it would be above 150; in New Delhi, perhaps 170.
Of course, these comparisons aren’t fair ones. The temperature anomaly was not observed in those other places, and no one expects anomalies of that scale to be seen on any part of the planet dense with people. The Antarctic, which is warming three times as fast as the world as a whole, is an extreme place to begin with, with much larger temperature variabilities than in the places where anyone actually lives, and even a day 70 degrees warmer than normal didn’t bring the thermometer above freezing. In fact, I’ve often thought that we tended to hear too much about the Arctic and Antarctic — that a rhetorical focus on the poles suggested things might be all right, relatively speaking, down in the mid-latitudes and tropics — and didn’t give enough weight to warming as an all-encompassing metanarrative for the human century to come.
But I also owe my own climate awakening to an Arctic anomaly — this one only 20 degrees Celsius warmer than average, half as extreme as this event this year at the other pole, and still a heat wave scientists called, at the time, “unheard-of.” It was in late November 2016. I was in a somewhat apocalyptic state of mind, or at least what passes for that in the well-insulated corners of the global north. My father had recently died. The American presidential election had delivered a shock outcome that made me think a whole bundle of expectations about the future I had long treated as a kind of inheritance had to be recalibrated, at least, if not discarded. My apartment had flooded twice in the space of a few months.
Probably this is not so uncommon an experience, to have climate anxiety triggered not just by scientific papers or news events or natural disasters but also idiosyncratic jumbles of more personal prompts. But that’s not to suggest that climate awakening is arbitrary, or elective, or anything less than tragically overdetermined. The warming world now furnishes expectation-breaking anomalies often enough that almost whenever you find yourself dreaming bleakly you can also find a news event or data point around which to bundle that existential panic.
And then, typically, the world continues. This can be bewildering, given how world-shapingly enormous an extreme event can seem. It is often maddening, given the amount of suffering being normalized along the way. But it can also be, to some degree, perspective-giving.
Take the South Asia heat wave, for instance. India and Pakistan are surviving their “not very extreme” temperature anomaly, though a lot depends on what you mean by “survive.” Almost certainly the ultimate death toll will run into the thousands, given that in 2003 a milder heat wave killed 70,000 in less-populated Europe and Russia.
But surviving like this is not a neat narrative of climate resilience. Normalization is a form of adaptation, too, and what looks like apocalypse in prospect often feels more like grim normality when it arrives into the present. However gruesome recent disasters may be, climate impacts are not the whole of our destiny but the natural landscape upon which our future will be built, and jury-rigged and contested.
Lately, that future landscape has started to look a little less hot, as well. We used to say “business as usual” and mean a future of four or even five degrees of warming. Now, thanks to a global political awakening and dizzying technological progress with renewables, we say it and mean three.
This is good news, of course, so far as it goes. But it also all means that we are living in the midst of some profound narrative confusion. Apocalypse may no longer seem quite as close at hand, but climate disruption is here now, distributed as though it was designed to deepen global injustice. At the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, the global promise was to avoid “dangerous” warming. At that, we’ve transparently failed, since dangerous climate change isn’t just here already — it is growing increasingly commonplace.
These are hard impacts, which must be responded to. But they also raise some softer questions, nonetheless knotty: How do we imagine our future, how do we expect to live in it, what do we count as success and what as failure in a world beset by ecological disarray and all the human messiness that shakes out from that?
Within our own lifetimes we may find ourselves living on a planet warmed beyond a level scientists long characterized as “catastrophic,” though well below the level casually described as “apocalyptic.” The question is: how?
That will be the animating question of this newsletter. At the moment, the only honest answer, I think, is: We just don’t know.
Thomas Lane entered the plea in state court to a charge of second-degree manslaughter, Minnesota’s attorney general said.
By Christine Hauser, May 18, 2022https://www.nytimes.com/2022/05/18/us/thomas-lane-guilty-plea-george-floyd.html
A former Minneapolis police officer, Thomas Lane, pleaded guilty on Wednesday to a second-degree manslaughter charge in the death of George Floyd in 2020, Minnesota’s attorney general said.
“I am pleased Thomas Lane has accepted responsibility for his role in Floyd’s death,” the attorney general, Keith Ellison, said in a statement. “His acknowledgment he did something wrong is an important step toward healing the wounds of the Floyd family, our community, and the nation.”
Mr. Lane, 39, had been scheduled to go on trial on June 13 with two other former officers, J. Alexander Kueng, 28, and Tou Thao, 36, on charges of second-degree unintentional murder and second-degree manslaughter in Mr. Floyd’s death.
In a separate case, the three former officers were found guilty of federal crimes in February for failing to intervene as another officer, Derek Chauvin, killed Mr. Floyd by pressing his knee on his neck for more than nine minutes on May 25, 2020.
John Stiles, a spokesman for Mr. Ellison, said Mr. Lane entered the guilty plea on the state charge in front of Judge Peter Cahill of Hennepin County District Court, who set a sentencing date for Sept. 21. State prosecutors and Mr. Lane’s defense have jointly recommended a three-year prison sentence, he said.
Now that Mr. Lane has entered the plea, the June 13 trial will go ahead without him, because the state dismissed Mr. Lane’s second charge, Mr. Stiles said.
“We are still full speed ahead on the trial for both charges” of the other defendants, Mr. Stiles said.
Mr. Lane’s lawyer, Earl Gray, said in a telephone interview that Mr. Lane, who has a newborn baby, “wanted to be a part of the child’s life” and did not want to risk possibly losing the murder case.
“After a lot of soul-searching that is what we decided to do,” Mr. Gray, said, referring to the guilty plea. It will be served concurrently with his federal sentence, for which there has not been a date. Mr. Lane would serve two years of the 36-month sentence, Mr. Gray said.
Mr. Chauvin was convicted of murder last year and was sentenced to 22 and a half years in prison.
Mr. Lane’s guilty plea on Wednesday was a “significant moment” in the case, Mr. Ellison said.
“Today my thoughts are once again with the victims, George Floyd and his family,” he said. “Nothing will bring Floyd back. He should still be with us today.”
Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs contributed reporting.
It is difficult to catch Asian elephants responding to deaths of herd members in the wild, but online videos helped researchers observe the behavior.
By Elizabeth Preston, Published May 17, 2022, Updated May 18, 2022
It was 2013 when Sanjeeta Pokharel first witnessed Asian elephants responding to death. An older female elephant in an Indian park had died of an infection. A younger female was walking in circles around the carcass. Fresh dung piles hinted that other elephants had recently visited.
“That is where we got curious,” said Dr. Pokharel, a biologist with the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute. She and Nachiketha Sharma, a wildlife biologist at Kyoto University in Japan, wanted to learn more. But it is rare to glimpse such a moment in person, as Asian elephants are elusive forest dwellers.
For a paper published Wednesday in the journal Royal Society Open Science, the scientists used YouTube to crowdsource videos of Asian elephants responding to death. They found reactions that included touching and standing guard as well as nudging, kicking and shaking. In a few cases, females had even used their trunks to carry calves, or baby elephants, that had died.
The work is part of a growing field called comparative thanatology — the study of how different animals react to death. African elephants have been found to repeatedly visit and touch carcasses. But for Asian elephants, Dr. Pokharel said, “There were stories about it, there was newspaper documentation, but there was no scientific documentation.”
Combing through YouTube, the researchers found 24 cases for study. Raman Sukumar of the Indian Institute of Science, a co-author, provided videos of an additional case.
The most common reactions included sniffing and touching. For example, many elephants touched the face or ears of a carcass with their trunks. Two young elephants used their legs to shake a deceased one. In three cases, mothers repeatedly kicked their dying or dead calves.
Asian elephants communicate with touch while living, too, Dr. Pokharel said. They may sleep against one another or offer reassuring trunk touches. Younger elephants are often seen walking with their trunks wrapped together, she said.
Another frequent response to death was making noise. Elephants in the videos trumpeted, roared or rumbled. Often, elephants kept a kind of vigil over a carcass: They stayed close, occasionally sleeping nearby and sometimes trying to chase away humans who tried to investigate. Several tried to lift or pull their fallen peers.
Then there was one behavior that “was quite surprising for us,” Dr. Pokharel said: In five cases, adult females — presumably mothers — carried the bodies of calves that had died.
The observation was not totally new, though. Researchers have seen ape and monkey mothers holding deceased infants. Dolphins and whales may carry dead calves on their backs or push them up to the surface of the water, as if urging them to breathe. Phyllis Lee, an elephant researcher at the University of Stirling in Scotland, said that she has seen an African elephant mother carry her dead calf for a full day, the carcass draped across her tusks.
To human eyes, these animals can resemble bereaved parents not ready to let go of their young. While she is cautious about interpreting the animals’ actions, Dr. Pokharel said that “carrying is not a usual behavior” in elephants, as calves usually follow the herd around on their own feet.
“That carrying itself can indicate they are aware that there’s something wrong with the calf,” she said.
Understanding more about how elephants view death could “give us insight about their highly complex cognitive abilities,” Dr. Pokharel said. More urgently, she hopes that it will also help to better protect elephants that are still alive, especially Asian elephants that are in frequent conflict with humans.
“We always talk about habitat loss, we talk about all these things,” she said. “We are not talking about what animals are going through psychologically.”
Dr. Lee called the sightings referenced in the new paper “wonderful and confirmatory.”
“These rare and extremely important natural history observations suggest that an awareness of loss is present in elephants,” Dr. Lee said.
Scientists do not yet know to what degree elephants grasp the concept of death, rather than just the absence of a herd member whose trunk used to be within reach. But that does not make the animals so different from ourselves, Dr. Lee said. “Even for us humans, our primary experience is probably also loss.”