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 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.”
Christian Cooper’s encounter in Central Park with a white woman who called 911 to falsely accuse him of threatening her spurred a national outcry. Now he is hosting a birding series for National Geographic.
By Colin Moynihan, Published May 17, 2022, Updated May 19, 2022https://www.nytimes.com/2022/05/17/arts/television/christian-cooper-central-park-birder.html
For years, Christian Cooper has studied the habits of Kirtland’s warblers, Swainson’s thrushes, Acadian flycatchers and the other birds he has spent countless hours searching for or observing.
While Mr. Cooper, a resident of Manhattan, has watched birds all over the world, one of his most frequent haunts is his beloved Central Park, where more than 200 species, including, loons, egrets, falcons and owls, live or stop by during migratory flights.
He is perhaps best known for his encounter there two years ago with a woman who called the police and falsely claimed that he was threatening her after Mr. Cooper asked that she keep her dog on a leash.
Now, he is about to once again be in the public eye — this time on his own television show.
On Monday, National Geographic announced a new series featuring Mr. Cooper, called “Extraordinary Birder,” that is expected to run on one of National Geographic’s channels or on Disney+. A premiere date has not been released.
“Whether braving stormy seas in Alaska for puffins, trekking into rainforests in Puerto Rico for parrots, or scaling a bridge in Manhattan for a peregrine falcon,” National Geographic said in its announcement, “he does whatever it takes to learn about these extraordinary feathered creatures and show us the remarkable world in the sky above.”
Mr. Cooper said that he first heard from National Geographic about the possibility of a show about a year and a half ago — “I was all in,” he said. The six planned episodes will feature Cooper birding in deserts, cities, rainforests and the rural South.
“I love spreading the gospel of birding,” he said in an interview on Tuesday, adding that he was looking forward to encouraging more people “to stop and watch and listen and really start appreciating the absolutely spectacular creatures that we have among us.”
Mr. Cooper, 59, has been a semipublic figure in various ways for decades. He served on the board of directors of GLAAD, formerly the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation. While an editor for Marvel Comics, he was credited with creating one of the first gay characters in the Star Trek comic universe.
The confrontation in Central Park in 2020 thrust him into the public eye in a new way. Mr. Cooper took out his phone and began recording during a disagreement with the woman he encountered there, Amy Cooper. The video showed Ms. Cooper, who is not related to Mr. Cooper, making a 911 call and saying to him: “I’m going to tell them there’s an African American man threatening my life.”
After Mr. Cooper’s sister posted the video to Twitter, it was viewed tens of millions of times. In the resulting furor, Ms. Cooper lost her job with the investment firm Franklin Templeton and was charged by the Manhattan district attorney’s office with filing a false police report. Ms. Cooper sued Franklin Templeton in Federal District Court in Manhattan, saying the company defamed and discriminated against her. Franklin Templeton has asked that the suit be dismissed.
Mr. Cooper emerged as a thoughtful, measured voice. He spoke publicly about what he called the “deep vein of racial bias” that runs through society, and he said there was no excuse for the racism inherent in Ms. Cooper making a false allegation against him.
But he also distanced himself from the public pillorying of Ms. Cooper and declined to cooperate with prosecutors, who ended up asking a judge to dismiss the case against her after she completed a therapeutic program that included instruction about racial biases.
Mr. Cooper has loved birds since growing up on Long Island and being struck at the age of 10 by the sight of red-winged blackbirds. He still listens for birdsong, wherever he is.
“It adds another dimension to just being on the street,” he said. “It adds another dimension to how you exist in the world.”
While making “Extraordinary Birder,” Mr. Cooper said, he added to his life’s list, glimpsing burrowing owls for the first time. “They are actually quite adorable,” he said.
Mr. Cooper still goes regularly to Central Park, especially this time of year — he’s usually there around daybreak. On Tuesday morning he had been excited to see a Tennessee warbler, a difficult-to-spot bird with “a really distinctive, urgent cry” that he said sounds in part like “a machine gun.”
“The second you hear that,” he said, “it’s like, oh boy, there’s a Tennessee around.”
Correction: May 19, 2022
An eariier version of this article incorrectly described the status of “Extraordinary Birders.” Six episodes are planned; they have not been completed. A picture caption that ran with that version incorrectly described the scope of the show. The episodes will be set in multiple locations in America, not all over the world.
The child was said to be in stable condition, but the incident came little more than a year after the fatal shooting of 13-year-old Adam Toledo in the same city.
By Eileen Grench, Updated May. 19, 2022 2:49PM ET / Published May. 19, 2022https://www.thedailybeast.com/chicago-cops-just-shot-an-unarmed-13-year-old-who-was-fleeing?ref=home
An unarmed 13-year-old was shot by Chicago police officers on Wednesday night after they fled a vehicle cops said was involved in a carjacking.
According to police, they stopped the car that night shortly after 10 p.m., believing it to have been tied to a “vehicular hijacking” in a suburb a day earlier. Officials said someone described as an “offender”—and later as a 13-year-old—fled the car and was shot by at least one officer before being brought to a hospital in serious but stable condition.
Cops indicated the driver of the car fled the scene and avoided arrest, abandoning the vehicle shortly thereafter. At least one officer was put on administrative leave while the shooting is investigated by the Civilian Office of Police Accountability.
The incident comes in the wake of numerous high-profile police shootings of teenage Chicagoans. Perhaps the most immediate and relevant precedent: the case of Adam Toledo, another 13-year-old who was killed by police, in his case while holding his hands up in apparent surrender.
While police originally leaned on the fact that Toledo appeared to have been in possession of a gun that night, video later showed he had his hands in the air when he died. No officers were charged in the fatal episode.
In 2014, Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke killed 17-year-old Laquan McDonald. Video released showed McDonald had been walking away from police when he was shot 16 times. Multiple officers were subsequently implicated in a cover-up, and Van Dyke was convicted on murder charges and sentenced to prison before being released earlier this year.
Sixty years ago, it already seemed remarkably clear to me how crucial it was that men stop leaving women to face this nightmare essentially alone — and it still does.
By Robert Lipsyte, May 19. 2022https://www.laprogressive.com/wellness/no-more-bystander-
For 50 years now, people have told desperate, heart-breaking stories about what it was like to search for an abortion in the days before Roe v. Wade. These were invariably narratives of women in crisis. They sometimes involved brief discussions about economic inequality, police-state intrigue, and unwanted children, but for the most part men were invisible in them, missing in action. Where were they? And where are they now that a wall of fundamental rights seems to be crumbling away not just for women, but for all of us? This is another example of what I used to call the Bystander Boys.
As a sportswriter, my work over these decades often brought me into a universe of male entitlement and the sort of posturing I thought of as faux masculinity. Even in that chest-beating environment, I was struck by the absence in abortion stories of what in another time would have been called manliness. What happened to that mostly storybook ideal of the brave, modest, responsible, big-hearted protector? I figured out early on not to waste time searching for him among football quarterbacks or baseball coaches, or even cops and Army officers. Much, much later, I found more people with the right stuff — that “manly” ideal — among single mothers and feminist lawyers.
As it happened, there weren’t a lot of male heroes during the women’s movement of the 1970s or even the more recent #MeToo upsurge. Most men, except for the power boys who treated everyone else as girls, were too fearful or starstruck to intervene. The most grotesque models were, of course, the athletes who stood by silently while their teammates raped stoned or drunken women.
In the pre-pill early 1960s, when unwanted pregnancy was a constant chilling specter for my pre-Boomer “silent” generation, men usually talked about abortion only if their girlfriends had missed a period — when they were trying to track down that coal-country Pennsylvania doctor who performed illegal abortions with relative impunity. They might even share their fears of what an unwanted kid would do to their careers, but rarely did they bring up the typical back-alley butchery of abortion in those years that came from the hijacking of the most fundamental of rights.
Where are those guys even today, much less their sons and grandsons, presumably still active partners in the reproductive process? Forget about moral responsibility — what about the jeopardy our lives are in as the possibility of a Trumpian-style authoritarian future closes in around us? Sixty years ago, it already seemed remarkably clear to me how crucial it was that men stop leaving women to face this nightmare essentially alone — and it still does.
With that in mind, let me tell you my own ancient abortion story, though it always felt somewhat pallid compared to others — what my kids would have sneered at as a “first-world story” if I had told them. Still, I think it does capture the fear and helplessness of a time which, sadly enough, just might be coming around again.
The year was 1961, 12 years before Roe v. Wade. I had already been married to my first wife for two years and she was justifiably convinced that we were still too shaky, emotionally and professionally, to have children. We were both 23. She was an undergraduate, working on the side in a doctor’s office. I was an ambitious New York Times reporter, covering sports for that paper and cops for its Sunday magazine. When she discovered that she was pregnant, we briefly argued about what to do. I liked the idea of fatherhood and was convinced that it wouldn’t hamper my career. (No wonder, since in the spirit of the time, I assumed she’d be doing all the work.) But I did at least understand that, in the end, it was her choice, not mine.
Through her medical connections, she found a Fifth Avenue doctor who would perform the then-illegal operation for $500, which we could just barely scrape together. We called that upcoming operation “the dismissal” in what we both understood to be a pathetically smart-assed way of avoiding a confrontation with the actual fears and mixed emotions generated by our choice. At that time, it was, of course, criminal, dangerous, and (in what passed for proper society) largely despised.
I was scared for Maria’s well-being and the possible consequences of acting illegally. I was particularly fearful that the Times might find out and, in some fashion, hold it against me. In a confused and twisted way, I was also disturbed about acting against the moral conventions of my society and time. It made me feel like a bad person and, believe me, those were wrenching feelings that began to bubble back into my memory recently as the most humane of judicial amendments came under assault by truly evil forces.
I was also — however contradictory this might sound — righteously angry on that crisp, clear fall afternoon as Maria and I walked to the doctor’s ground-floor office across from New York’s Central Park. I knew even then that religious bigots and the mercenary politicians backing them stood in the way of our health and freedom. Admittedly, I could never have imagined that, more than half a century later, the same combination of forces would be using abortion as part of an authoritarian plot to seize control of all aspects of our lives. Back then, I probably would have smirked at such seeming paranoia, had I seen it in some sci-fi film.
The doctor’s door opened before I rang the buzzer and the arm of an older woman — the doctor’s wife I later discovered — shot out, grabbed Maria’s sleeve and began pulling her inside. We kissed quickly. I noted how terrified Maria’s eyes were. And then she was gone.
I had been instructed to leave the area and call in two hours (from a pay phone on the street, of course, since no one then had a mobile phone). After wandering in the park for a while, I found myself drifting back toward the doctor’s office. Reporters always have that urge to stay near the action. As dusk was settling, I noticed nondescript black and gray sedans beginning to double-park illegally along Fifth Avenue and in the side streets flanking that office. They disgorged athletic-looking women in non-chic clothes. In that fashionable neighborhood, they were distinctly not local residents.
As they clustered on the sidewalk, I remember thinking that they looked like a women’s semi-pro softball team I had once covered, as well as the women cops I had met recently doing a Times magazine piece about a squad of Manhattan detectives.
I realized then that I was watching a raid. I felt ice water in my veins as I hurried to a telephone booth from which I could observe the cops closing in on the doctor’s office. What should I do? Warn the doctor? Less than an hour had passed since Maria had gone inside. If they aborted the abortion now, would that spare them criminal charges? What if she was numbing into the anesthesia? I imagined the doctor, scalpel in hand, panicking and injuring my wife. I couldn’t bring myself to take that chance. So, made powerless by my decision, I simply waited and watched.
Soon enough, the cops swarmed the office door and went inside. I moved closer. Several of them were standing guard there and others were stationed along the block. They briskly collected a middle-aged couple heading toward the office and stuffed them into a parked sedan.
It seemed like a long time before the office door opened and the cops came out with the doctor’s wife, a white-bearded man in a white coat, a teenage girl wrapped in a blanket, and Maria, pale and shaking after the operation. I couldn’t be a bystander for one more second. Nobody stopped me as I ran to her, yelling, “That’s my wife!”
The cops were matter of fact, almost kindly. They assured us that if Maria agreed to accompany them to Bellevue Hospital and submit to an examination to ascertain whether she had an abortion, there would be no charges against her. I felt helpless. I didn’t know what to do or who to call.
Gripped by a certain desperation, I asked whether the medical exam would be the end of it? No, I was told, she would need to appear before a grand jury trying the doctor. I insisted on going to Bellevue with her. The cops conferred. Okay, they said, and took me along.
I sat in the chilly hallway of that hospital for a long, long time. Passing cops chatted with me in a relatively friendly way. Several of them all but apologized. Abortions were against the law, they pointed out, shrugging, as if to say, what can we do? Finally, I took Maria home. She slept for a day. There were visits from a nurse at the doctor’s office where she worked.
Sometime later, she did indeed testify before a grand jury. The doctor’s name eventually appeared in a splashy New York Post story. He was running an abortion “factory,” so the claim went, and the raid on his office was considered a big bust.
And that was pretty much the end of it for us, not to speak of our marriage a year later. The only related event: a call from the Police Department’s public information chief, a deputy commissioner, demanding an apology and a retraction of things I had written in my recent magazine article about the squad of women detectives. He said he knew just why I had written so negatively about them and assured me that if I didn’t send him that apology, he would inform key people at the Times about my recent “unlawful activity.” He let that phrase hang in the air.
I felt chills. My career, I feared, was over. At that moment, I remember thinking about how my dad had talked me into getting a junior-high-school English-teaching license as a back-up to my risky journalism career.
Still, I felt I had no choice and told that deputy commissioner to go to hell. He snickered and hung up. I never heard from him again. Sometime later, a magazine editor from the Times discreetly indicated to me that he’d brushed off some complaint from a police flack and told me not to worry.
End of story, although I thought about it again when Roe v. Wade became the law of the land in 1973 and, with Maria’s permission, I wrote about what happened to us as part of a boomlet of pre-Roe horror stories published then. The bloody wire coat hanger that women so notoriously used to try to induce abortions at home, which once seemed all too real to me, was becoming a quaint symbol of another age. We could breathe easy on this, as it was obviously settled law for all time.
In retrospect, I realize that I was surprised by how blithely a new generation took for granted legal access to safe abortions. As a feminist married to a feminist journalist in the 1970s, my nascent thoughts about those Bystander Boys of the pre-Roe era transformed into far better images of “liberated males” I knew, mostly writers and academics, who supported the women’s movement, even if the mainstream media wrote them off as softies.
Everything started coming back to me, though, with Politico‘s scoop on Supreme Court justice Samuel Alito’s draft opinion that threatens to end Roe v. Wade (and potentially so much more). In that “opinion,” you can see one of the many bullies of this era at work. When it came out, the Republican congressional crew were, of course, already well launched on the tactics they had undoubtedly learned so long ago in some schoolyard, intimidating any onlookers who wanted to stop them from terrorizing the girls.
Meanwhile, the everyday dudes, starting with President Biden, were generally cutting and running from both the reproductive nightmare Alito’s opinion had set loose in our world and its larger social implications, including the Trumpist campaign to control us all.
It’s time, though, for the boys to become men, to step out on the streets, organize, demonstrate, march (maybe wearing knitted penis caps), guard clinics, escort patients, make noise. Older men like me who can evoke the terrible pre-Roe days should tell their stories, at least to their grandsons, especially the ones who claim that their impractical progressive ideals prohibit them from voting in lesser-of-two-evils elections (too common these days, it seems.)
Just hold your nose, sonny, if it means doing the right thing.
And perhaps it’s most important to keep reminding ourselves and everyone we know that abortion isn’t the whole abortion story, that the bullies are preparing to go after the entire schoolyard, not just the girls, and (as has become so common these days) they’re going to stomp into the school-board meeting as well. Sooner or later, they’ll try to take over the school itself and, eventually, the mind and soul of this country thanks to the holes they’re about to tear in the Constitution. There are more of us than them and, if we stand together and fight, we can still win. No place for bystanders now.
By Mateusz Maszczynski, May 15, 2022
Sara Nelson, dubbed ‘the most powerful flight attendant in the United States’ (perhaps even the world), has been reelected as president of the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA-CWA) for a new four-year term.
The Association of Flight Attendants is by far the largest cabin crew union in the world, representing some 50,000 crew members at 18 airlines. The union’s largest workgroup is the more than 20,000 flight attendants at United Airlines, while its newest members will soon start flying for Norse, a transatlantic low-cost carrier.
In between, AFA represents flight attendants at Alaska, Frontier and Spirit Airlines and under Nelson’s direction, the union is once again embarking on a concerted campaign to convince flight attendants at Delta Air Lines to join the fold and unionize for the first time in the company’s history.
Unionizing Delta flight attendants would be a major coup for Nelson after several failed attempts at getting the job done. A 25-year flight attendant at United Airlines, Nelson first became a union member in 1996 and has been international president of AFA since 2014.
Already a rising star of the labor movement, Nelson really came to prominence in 2019 when her calls for a general strike were credited with helping to end President Trump’s government shutdown.
The following year, Nelson won plaudits for leading calls for a federal emergency relief fund for the pandemic-hit aviation business. The multi-billion-dollar rescue package helped secure the jobs of tens of thousands of flight attendants and many other airline workers.
Under Nelson’s militant leadership, however, AFA has been criticized for some of its political campaignings including its support, until recently, of the federal face mask mandate. Nelson and AFA recently joined the Roe v. Wade debate, calling the Supreme Court’s draft decision a “radical assault on our rights”.
Nelson was reelected at the 49th AFA-CWA Board of Directors meeting in Las Vegas on Saturday. Shortly after being confirmed in the position, Nelson told attendees: “Some may call these times desperate. We can recognize them as a call to action.”
“In the worst of times, working people have risen up to achieve our greatest gains,” Nelson continued. “Stronger together, better together is not just our slogan; it is our calling.”