Japanese Political Prisoner and struggler for Palestine, Fusako Shigenobu, will be released on May 28, 2022
Read more at:
Click here to read and share Fusako Shigenobu's biography:
Tell Congress to Help #FreeDanielHale
U.S. Air Force veteran, Daniel Everette Hale has recently completed his first year of a 45-month prison sentence for exposing the realities of U.S drone warfare. Daniel Hale is not a spy, a threat to society, or a bad faith actor. His revelations were not a threat to national security. If they were, the prosecution would be able to identify the harm caused directly from the information Hale made public. Our members of Congress can urge President Biden to commute Daniel's sentence! Either way, Daniel deserves to be free.
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: email@example.com
Sign our petition urging President Biden to grant clemency to Leonard Peltier.
Address: 116 W. Osborne Ave. Tampa, Florida 33603
How long will he still be with us? How long will the genocide continue?
By Michael Moore—VIA Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
American Indian Movement leader, Leonard Peltier, at 77 years of age, came down with Covid-19 this weekend. Upon hearing this, I broke down and cried. An innocent man, locked up behind bars for 44 years, Peltier is now America’s longest-held political prisoner. He suffers in prison tonight even though James Reynolds, one of the key federal prosecutors who sent Peltier off to life in prison in 1977, has written to President Biden and confessed to his role in the lies, deceit, racism and fake evidence that together resulted in locking up our country’s most well-known Native American civil rights leader. Just as South Africa imprisoned for more than 27 years its leading voice for freedom, Nelson Mandela, so too have we done the same to a leading voice and freedom fighter for the indigenous people of America. That’s not just me saying this. That’s Amnesty International saying it. They placed him on their political prisoner list years ago and continue to demand his release.
And it’s not just Amnesty leading the way. It’s the Pope who has demanded Leonard Peltier’s release. It’s the Dalai Lama, Jesse Jackson, and the President Pro-Tempore of the US Senate, Sen. Patrick Leahy. Before their deaths, Nelson Mandela, Mother Theresa and Bishop Desmond Tutu pleaded with the United States to free Leonard Peltier. A worldwide movement of millions have seen their demands fall on deaf ears.
And now the calls for Peltier to be granted clemency in DC have grown on Capitol Hill. Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI), the head of the Senate committee who oversees the Bureau of Indian Affairs, has also demanded Peltier be given his freedom. Numerous House Democrats have also written to Biden.
The time has come for our President to act; the same President who appointed the first-ever Native American cabinet member last year and who halted the building of the Keystone pipeline across Native lands. Surely Mr. Biden is capable of an urgent act of compassion for Leonard Peltier — especially considering that the prosecutor who put him away in 1977 now says Peltier is innocent, and that his US Attorney’s office corrupted the evidence to make sure Peltier didn’t get a fair trial. Why is this victim of our judicial system still in prison? And now he is sick with Covid.
For months Peltier has begged to get a Covid booster shot. Prison officials refused. The fact that he now has COVID-19 is a form of torture. A shame hangs over all of us. Should he now die, are we all not complicit in taking his life?
President Biden, let Leonard Peltier go. This is a gross injustice. You can end it. Reach deep into your Catholic faith, read what the Pope has begged you to do, and then do the right thing.
For those of you reading this, will you join me right now in appealing to President Biden to free Leonard Peltier? His health is in deep decline, he is the voice of his people — a people we owe so much to for massacring and imprisoning them for hundreds of years.
The way we do mass incarceration in the US is abominable. And Leonard Peltier is not the only political prisoner we have locked up. We have millions of Black and brown and poor people tonight in prison or on parole and probation — in large part because they are Black and brown and poor. THAT is a political act on our part. Corporate criminals and Trump run free. The damage they have done to so many Americans and people around the world must be dealt with.
This larger issue is one we MUST take on. For today, please join me in contacting the following to show them how many millions of us demand that Leonard Peltier has suffered enough and should be free:
President Joe Biden
E-mail: At this link
Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland
Attorney General Merrick Garland
E-mail: At this link
I’ll end with the final verse from the epic poem “American Names” by Stephen Vincent Benet:
I shall not rest quiet in Montparnasse.
I shall not lie easy at Winchelsea.
You may bury my body in Sussex grass,
You may bury my tongue at Champmedy.
I shall not be there. I shall rise and pass.
Bury my heart at Wounded Knee.
PS. Also — watch the brilliant 1992 documentary by Michael Apted and Robert Redford about the framing of Leonard Peltier— “Incident at Oglala”
Bureau of Labor Statistics
U.S. Department of Labor
For release 10:00 a.m. (ET) Thursday, January 20, 2022
(202) 691-6378 • email@example.com • 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.
Please visit the NLG Mass Defense Program page for general protest-related legal support hotlines run by NLG chapters.
If you are contacted by federal law enforcement you should exercise all of your rights. It is always advisable to speak to an attorney before responding to federal authorities.
State and Local Hotlines
If you have been contacted by the FBI or other federal law enforcement, in one of the following areas, you may be able to get help or information from one of these local NLG hotlines for:
- Portland, Oregon: (833) 680-1312
- San Francisco, California: (415) 285-1041 or firstname.lastname@example.org
- Seattle, Washington: (206) 658-7963
If you are located in an area with no hotline, you can call the following number:
Know Your Rights Materials
The NLG maintains a library of basic Know-Your-Rights guides.
- Know Your Rights During Covid-19
- You Have The Right To Remain Silent: A Know Your Rights Guide for Encounters with Law Enforcement
- Operation Backfire: For Environmental and Animal Rights Activists
WEBINAR: Federal Repression of Activists & Their Lawyers: Legal & Ethical Strategies to Defend Our Movements: presented by NLG-NYC and NLG National Office
We also recommend the following resources:
Center for Constitutional Rights
Civil Liberties Defense Center
- Grand Juries: Slideshow
Grand Jury Resistance Project
Movement for Black Lives Legal Resources
Tilted Scales Collective
By Charles M. Blow, May 22, 2022https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2022/05/20/opinion/blm-george-floyd-mural.html
WEDNESDAY WILL BE the second anniversary of the lurid street murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer. The killings of Black people had become almost banal in their incessancy and redundancy, but something about this one — captured during an advancing pandemic that had forced people apart and inside, watching the world through windows and screens — drew thousands of people out into the streets, where boarded-up storefronts produced the tempting tableau of a country strewn with canvases.
Some saw in the uprising the potential for revolution. They talked about the protests in the lofty language of a “racial reckoning,” an “inflection point,” a fresh start on America’s path to absolution from its original sin.
But flashes of guilt, outrage and shame often stir fleeting fealties, and the heavy gravitational pull of racial privileges and power can quickly draw mercurial allies back into the refuge of the status quo.
Some good came of the protests, to be sure. Some states and local municipalities passed or instituted police reforms. Money poured into Black Lives Matter, as well as other racial justice organizations and Black institutions. Individuals began personal journeys to become more egalitarian and more actively “antiracist.” And artists produced hundreds of murals and thousands of pieces of other street art that, for a time, transformed this country.
In the end, transformative national change proved to be an illusion. Inflation, a war in Ukraine, public safety, abortion and even a baby formula crisis have overtaken the zeitgeist. Support for Black Lives Matter has diminished. Federal police reform and federal voter protection both failed to pass the Senate. And the founders of Black Lives Matter have been drawn into controversies about how they handled its money.
I’ve learned not to expect much from America; it has a deep capacity for change but a shallow desire for it. I have embraced the “wise desire not to be betrayed by too much hoping,” as James Baldwin put it. But I worry about young people in all of this. It is their faith that’s most vulnerable to damage. They were the ones who most believed that change was not only possible but imminent, only to have America retreat and retrench.
Now not only are their allies reversing course on issues like police reform; the country is also facing a full backlash toward protest itself. Dozens of states have passed laws restricting the right to protest (just this week, Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida barred citizens from protesting outside private homes), and more than a dozen have now criminalized teaching full and accurate racial history.
The Great Erasure is underway, not so much an attempt to erase the uprising itself as an attempt to blunt its effects.
THERE IS NO EXAMPLE of this erasure more striking than the continual destruction, removal or slow vanishing of much of the street art produced in the wake of Floyd’s killing.
According to a database compiled by three professors at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota — Heather Shirey, David Todd Lawrence and Paul Lorah — there were once approximately 2,700 murals, graffiti, stickers, posters affixed to surfaces and light projections created in response to Floyd’s killing, mostly in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul. Shirey and Lawrence called it “the largest proliferation of street art around one idea or issue or event in history.” But many of those pieces have disappeared, sometimes because of exposure to traffic or the elements and sometimes because of deliberate attempts to erase them. Business owners quietly removed the graffitied planks from their storefronts. Some of the murals have been defaced.
For this project, my colleagues and I looked at 115 murals created after Floyd’s death and tried to determine how many had been maintained. (It is not a comprehensive list, although it is hard to imagine any such list could be.) Only 37 were fully intact. In cities from Oklahoma to California, few vestiges remain of what were once vibrant murals, painted on asphalt and walls.
Over the past two months, I talked to art historians, museum directors and curators, activists and artists who had created murals. The picture that emerges is of a group determined to preserve as much of the art as possible while understanding that it can’t all be saved, and an acknowledgement of the inherent, ephemeral nature of street art. This art was created in a moment, for a moment. Permanence was often not its central consideration. But to lose it would be to lose a cultural record of the time, a record of the profound significance and magnitude of what transpired: A generation of young people and young artists found their voice and used it, creating an arts movement that sits in the canon alongside the Black Arts Movement of the 1960s and ’70s and the Harlem Renaissance. You might even say it mirrors on an enormous scale the Wall of Respect mural first painted in 1967 by the Visual Arts Workshop of the Organization of Black American Culture in Chicago.
What may have been different about this movement was the outlook of the generation that created it. Aaron Bryant, curator of photography, visual anthropology and contemporary history at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, described it to me as a “sense of entitlement.” These activists and artists believe “they have an absolute right, and even a responsibility, to express themselves,” he told me. “They aren’t necessarily a generation that was raised to be silent.”
The art produced during and after the uprising was powerful, emotional and energetic, like a lightning storm. But like lightning, the illuminated contours of the way it split the sky soon dimmed and vanished.
The art tapped into something and provided a language for it. As Franklin Sirmans, director of the Pérez Art Museum Miami, put it, “Some of the best art is created under situations of not only duress but of immediate response, and that is part and parcel with this sense of collective identity that I think many of us felt in that moment, and to see it visualized was really heartening.”
For me, it was transcendent. It brought a fresh, abounding energy to a standing tradition.
Murals as instruments of memorial have long been a feature of Black grief and remembrance. They are what Amaka Okechukwu, assistant professor of sociology and anthropology at George Mason University, so eloquently describes as “gravestone murals” or “wake work” haunting the urban spaces where Black lives have been lost.
By no means are these murals the expression solely of African Americans. They can be found in many communities and in many cultures around the world, where the tradition of producing them is centuries old.
But in a way, Floyd’s murder globalized gravestone murals in service of a singular subject. Perhaps the most iconic of these murals were thoses with the words “Black Lives Matter” written in large block letters down the middle of streets. The first was painted by the District of Columbia and was so large that it was legible on satellite images.
People like Sarah Lewis, associate professor of history of art and architecture and African and African American studies at Harvard University, saw it as a powerful testament “symbolizing the precarity of black life in open terrain.” But activists soon pointed out that the politicians who supported the art often resisted policies designed to rectify the historic injustices Black Lives Matter had highlighted. When the District of Columbia painted its mural, the local Black Lives Matter chapter called it “a performative distraction from real policy changes” designed “to appease white liberals while ignoring our demands.” Mayor Muriel Bowser was “on the wrong side” of history, they said. “Black Lives Matter means defund the police.”
These tensions stretched beyond Washington.
In Minneapolis, at the intersection where Floyd was murdered — now called George Floyd Square — the George Floyd Global Memorial project has taken on the Herculean task of preserving all protest objects, items the group calls “offerings,” including art and murals, in the square. So far it has collected over 5,000 artifacts, preserved them with the help of art conservators and stored them in cardboard boxes in a small room in a community theater. The group has ambitions to one day build a museum to house it all. Some of the murals in George Floyd Square were being repainted when I visited this month, ahead of the observances of the second anniversary of Floyd’s murder. New ones have been added featuring other Black people killed elsewhere, some lost to community violence rather than state violence.
This level of ambition makes Minneapolis both the epicenter of the preservation efforts and an anomaly. Governments in cities across the country, like Tulsa, Okla. and Redwood City, Calif., have erased the murals, reflecting the reality that many lacked the true, sustained commitment to Black lives.
Further complicating the preservation efforts is the degree to which these pieces of art were politicalized from the moment of their creation: Murals were going up as Confederate monuments in cities like Montgomery, Ala., continued to come down. It fueled the fears held by white supremacists that white people and white culture would eventually be superseded.
In their zero-sum worldview, BLM’s pro-Blackness was inherently anti-white. President Donald Trump called a Black Lives Matter mural to be painted in front of Trump Tower in New York City a “symbol of hate.” Historical revisionists held fast to the lie that Confederate monuments were about history, rather than racism. The fight was over which art representing which points of view was more deserving of public display.
It’s perhaps also no coincidence that much of the artwork created after Floyd’s death is vanishing as the public embrace of the Black Lives Matter movement is waning. Polls last year by the Pew Research Center found that support for Black Lives Matter, which peaked in the immediate aftermath of George Floyd’s death, had fallen back to its 2017 levels, pre-George Floyd. Black support had remained high; it was the support among white people that fell.
Activists chafe at the notion that the BLM movement itself is waning.
“Every off year we write Black Lives Matter’s obituary, and we eulogize it and we talk about the waning Black Lives Matter Movement,” Frank Leon Roberts, creator of the Black Lives Matter Syllabus, a public curriculum for teaching BLM in classrooms and communities, and newly appointed assistant professor of English and Black studies at Amherst College, told me.
“The movement actually is not waning,” he said. “The movement from its inception has operated in waves.” He predicts that “there will inevitably be another heinous event of police violence which will once again incite something in the people, and then we’ll be having this same conversation.”
But police killings have continued unabated. In fact, last year saw a record number of police shootings, the most since The Washington Post began keeping count in 2015. The police killed 1,055 people across the country in 2021. And yet, there were no nationwide protests.
In my life I have arrived at the conclusion that real liberation — equity, safety and “the pursuit of happiness” — is not rooted in feelings and personal evolutions. Only a change in the parameters of power — political, economic and cultural, who has it and who gets to exercise it, who is benefited by it and who is harmed by it — can transform this country.
Passions flare and subside; power endures. Like the art, broad-based, transracial interest and energy to support the Black Lives Matter movement are fading. I mourn the loss of that energy, but I also mourn the loss of the movement’s art from public space. In the streets it was both declaration and confrontation, brazen and assertive. It was forcefully in your face.
Now, even among the artifacts that can be or have been saved, the context will change from the urgency of in-situ to the sterility of institutions or the impersonal distance of digital space.
The art that once shouted and demanded and documented the movement is being culled and reduced to the dulcet-toned advocacy of a few heroic curators.
By Melissa Murray, May 23, 2022
Ms. Murray is a professor of law at New York Universityhttps://www.nytimes.com/2022/05/23/opinion/birth-control-abortion-roe-v-wade.html
Alex Wong/Getty Images
The leaked draft opinion of the Supreme Court’s decision overturning Roe v. Wade has prompted a flurry of debate about the fate of other so-called unenumerated rights — rights that are not explicitly outlined in the Constitution — including the right to access contraception.
According to some commentators, claims that the right to contraception could be on the chopping block are little more than hyperbolic “catastrophizing” that cannot be taken seriously. Prominent constitutional law scholars also have insisted that such claims are little more than baseless fearmongering, and The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page insisted that liberal fears about overruling rights to contraception and same-sex marriage are little more than an “implausible parade of horribles.”
Such high-level minimizing is not surprising. To understand whether the right to access contraception, like the right to abortion, could be overturned, it’s necessary to pick up on clues in Justice Samuel Alito’s draft opinion.
Citing Roe and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the 1992 decision that reaffirmed and upheld Roe, Justice Alito wrote that abortion is different from other unenumerated rights in that it destroys a “potential life.”
In Justice Alito’s telling, what made Roe “egregiously wrong” was the fact that the right to abortion is not explicit in the Constitution’s text and is not “deeply rooted” in the history and traditions of the United States.
But the same could be said of other unenumerated rights, including, and especially, contraception. Nowhere does the Constitution speak of a right to contraception — the Constitution does not even explicitly mention women. And as many conservatives have noted, the American legal landscape was littered with prohibitions on contraception right up until the court invalidated Connecticut’s ban on contraception in 1965’s Griswold v. Connecticut.
Justice Alito himself has already set in motion the means for challenging the right to contraception. In 2014’s Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, the family that owns the craft store company objected on religious grounds to the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive mandate, which required employers to provide employees with insurance coverage for contraception. Specifically, Hobby Lobby balked at providing its employees with insurance plans that would cover IUDs and emergency contraceptives, like Plan B, based on the unsubstantiated claim that such contraceptives are abortifacients. The court, in an opinion written by Justice Alito, ruled for Hobby Lobby.
In a post-Roe America, it is easy to see how the right to contraception could be gutted by recasting some forms of contraception as abortifacients. For the last 10 years, this has been a standard move among abortion opponents.
The Susan B. Anthony List, a prominent anti-abortion group, has characterized emergency contraceptives as “abortion drugs.” Likewise, Americans United for Life, which drafts model anti-abortion legislation, maintains that IUDs and Plan B “can kill an embryo by blocking its ability to implant in the uterus.” Most recently, the Louisiana Legislature flirted with a bill that would classify abortion as a homicide, prompting concern that the legislation could have criminalized IUDs and emergency contraception.
As red states line up to prohibit — and even criminalize — abortion, the crucial question will be, What counts as an abortion?
Beyond that, the draft opinion in the pending abortion case provides a path for challenging the constitutionality of all contraception. In a footnote, Justice Alito highlights an argument linking abortion with eugenics. The argument is most closely associated with Justice Clarence Thomas, who in a 2019 concurrence argued that abortion restrictions could be the state’s attempt to prevent abortion from becoming “a tool of eugenic manipulation.” Justice Thomas’s argument hinged, in part, on the relationship between Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood and the modern birth control movement, and the eugenics movement.
Justice Alito’s decision to include that footnote in his draft opinion is puzzling — by the draft opinion’s logic, overruling Roe is a function of textualism and originalism, not eugenics. Perhaps it was merely a collegial nod to Justice Thomas, who has diligently husbanded the eugenics argument and seen it flourish in lower court rulings on abortion.
Or, more ominously, perhaps the footnote is intended to preserve — in the most important Supreme Court decision in a generation — the view that the modern birth control movement is irrevocably tainted by its past associations with eugenics and racial injustice. After all, the court has overruled past precedents in order to remedy a racial injustice.
As the draft opinion acknowledges, the court in Brown v. Board of Education overruled Plessy v. Ferguson in order to correct the injustices of Jim Crow. What better way to destabilize, and lay a foundation for overruling, the right to contraception than to foster and cultivate the notion that it originated in a racist effort to stamp out Black reproduction?
To quote Justice Antonin Scalia, “it takes real cheek” for Justice Alito to insist that the draft opinion’s logic can be confined to abortion and does not implicate any other rights. The document, if finalized, will not simply lay waste to almost 50 years’ worth of precedent — it will provide a blueprint for going even further. The devil, after all, is in the details.
In a community already marked by segregation and poverty, Black students are mourning and demanding change.
By Lola Fadulu, May 23, 2022
Lola Fadulu has spent the past week on Buffalo’s East Side, interviewing more than two dozen children and their guardians.https://www.nytimes.com/2022/05/23/nyregion/buffalo-shooting-children-schools.html?action=click&module=Well&pgtype=Homepage§ion=New%20York
Ruyvette Townsend leaned against a student’s desk early last week, trying not to cry.
Ms. Townsend, an attendance teacher at Leonardo da Vinci High School in Buffalo, looked at the rows of students seated in front of her: Some had their heads down, others were tense with anger, and many were shaking their heads.
“‘Who would drive that far to kill people?’” Ms. Townsend, 60, recalled one student asking. “‘Didn’t somebody see him coming?’”
Some of the students had shopped with their families at the Tops supermarket where 10 Black people were killed on May 14 in a racist mass shooting. Others had known several of the victims, and one student was there when the bodies were collected.
Some saw the live footage of the massacre and couldn’t get it out of their heads.
The mass shooting was the deadliest in the United States so far this year, and one of the deadliest racist massacres in recent American history. Federal data shows a recent spike in hate crimes against Black Americans.
Many Black families in Buffalo are fearful.
“I think the concern is because the schools are predominantly Black around this area,” said Denise Sweet, 48, a mother of two boys. “Who’s to say that another sharpshooter, when it’s all died down, might not start this all over again and enter school?”
School officials want Black families to trust that if any such threat were to arise on school buses or in classrooms, their children would be protected. Dr. Tonja Williams, the interim schools superintendent, said she was increasing security at schools and bolstering mental health support for students.
She grew up on Buffalo’s East Side and knew several of the victims.
“It’s a challenging time for all of us,” said Dr. Williams. “What we know is that, in our city, our schools are a safe haven.”
But parents and students aren’t feeling all that trusting. And some are wondering how a school system that has neglected its Black children for so long can be expected to help them cope with the tragedy.
Buffalo’s public school system is racially diverse, but its schools are still segregated. Many Black students are concentrated in schools with high rates of poverty, which tend to underperform, in part because they often have less experienced teachers and fewer rigorous courses.
“This district is not designed for African American children to succeed,” said Coleen Dove, 67, a retired principal who worked in the school system for 30 years.
‘It could just happen to me’
The day after the shooting, a preacher knelt in the street, praying, urging the community to remember that God was ultimately a good God.
Black children and their parents gathered around him, staring somberly at a tree with red balloons tied to its branches, tall prayer candles with images of Jesus Christ at its roots, and many, many flowers.
Simier Sweet, 13, Jaiden Sweet, 12, and their mother, Ms. Sweet, were among the onlookers. Simier, who attends a local charter school, said he was nervous about walking to the bus stop alone.
“I’m there by myself, like it could just happen to me,” said Simier. “It could happen on the bus, anywhere, me walking to my school.”
His concerns weren’t unwarranted. The suspect considered going to a school as part of his rampage and listed one Buffalo elementary school in particular as a target, according to his Discord chat logs. On Wednesday last week, officials said they were going to increase the police presence at Buffalo schools because of social media threats.
Teraia Harris, 15, a high school student, said she heard about the threats and asked her mother to pick her up early.
“This is supposed to be an institution of learning, where they are supposed to feel comfortable and feel safe,” said her mother, Tamara Martin, 43, who is a nurse.
Some parents are simply keeping their children home; others are opting to drive them to school instead of allowing them to take the bus. Some children are seeking out counseling at school and finding it woefully inadequate.
Three of the people killed in the shooting were or had been school district staff: Pearl Young, 77, was a substitute teacher; Margus D. Morrison, 52, was a bus aide; and Aaron Salter Jr., 55, was a former substitute teacher.
“It takes a toll on these children,” said George Wilson, 35, who said one of his daughters was close with Katherine Massey, 72, their neighbor, who was also killed.
‘It’s going to be a long time before any of us really feel safe’
Standing at a memorial near the store’s parking lot, José Esquilin, 43, and Alice Castricone, 46, were debating whether to send their daughter, Avalynn Esquilin, 7, to school last Monday.
Avalynn stood nearby, with a piece of chalk in her hand, staring down at a message she had written with a heart underneath it: “RIP we love you, from all of us.”
“I just don’t know what’s going to go on because a lot of people are shooting and killing,” she said. Her parents decided to keep her home on Monday and Tuesday.
Dr. Williams sent a letter to staff and parents after the shooting that asked principals to begin the school day last Monday by giving students and staff members time to share what was on their minds. Counselors, psychologists and social workers were also available.
“It’s going to be a long time before any of us really feel safe,” said Dr. Williams. “When something this heinous happens there, you do question: Am I safe anywhere?”
Alicia Northington, 45, said her daughter, Solei Watson, 7, who attends a local charter school, recently found her crying and asked what was wrong.
“I haven’t really gotten into the racism part, because I think the biggest part is for her to know people are grieving,” said Ms. Northington, who has been dropping her daughter off instead of allowing her to take the bus.
But she said Solei had asked her repeatedly what the “white man” she heard about at school had to do with the shooting.
“She knows that it’s something with white and Black,” said Ms. Northington, adding: “I want to make sure that she knows that everything is not just white and Black. Something happened, someone individually did something.”
She said it was imperative that her daughter stay in school. “I also want her to know you have to keep moving through this, you can’t be afraid,” she said.
Older children are much more aware of the factors that led to the shooting, and some have been eager to talk about it.
Teraia, the high school student, said that she had been looking forward to discussing the massacre, thinking it would help her process what happened.
But when she brought it up with a teacher and classmates, she said, the teacher told her to visit a “mindfulness room,” which existed at the school before the shooting happened.
It wasn’t helpful, Teraia said, adding that the message seemed to be: “‘Live life and don’t be scared.’”
Myah Durham, 14, was also frustrated by the counseling provided at her charter school.
“It didn’t work for me,” she said, adding that she was told: “‘It’s going to be OK, nothing ever happened to Buffalo, just pray and keep your eye out when you’re walking, no headphones in your ears, be aware of your surroundings.’”
Myah said she had viewed white people differently since the shooting, unsure of who was racist, whom she could trust. Inside the classroom, she has had trouble focusing.
Heyward Patterson, 67, another shooting victim, was a deacon at her church. She recalled how he always greeted her with a hug.
Her mother, LeCandice Durham, has encouraged her to keep her head up.
“We’re going to change the narrative, that’s the plan,” said Ms. Durham, 36, as she stood near a memorial next to the supermarket on Tuesday evening while her three other children drew with chalk and chased each other around. “I don’t want Buffalo to be known as the place of the mass shooting.”
She added: “Are we still going to be the City of Good Neighbors? I believe we will.”
As she spoke, Myah gazed into the distance. Asked if she too felt hopeful, she shrugged: “I don’t have an answer,” she said.
An already burdened public school system
What made the East Side a target for the suspect — a high percentage of Black residents, living closely together — has made it a community for the people who live here. Many residents have lived in the area for decades. They greet each other by first name.
At the same time, living conditions for Black Buffalo residents, across measures of health, housing, income and education, have improved little and in some cases have declined over the last 30 years, according to a 2021 University at Buffalo report.
“The school doesn’t know how to accommodate for any of that,” said Dr. Henry Louis Taylor Jr., a professor of urban studies at the University at Buffalo.
Buffalo Public Schools were already struggling to serve Black students, education experts said. The district suspends them at especially high rates compared to other cities in New York.
The federal Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights has found substantial evidence of racial inequality, including in hiring and in the locations of new schools, and required the city to address it. But experts say little progress has been made.
Dr. Williams, the interim superintendent, said there was no denying that there was some segregation in the schools. But she said school choice, or allowing parents to decide where their children went to school, had kept it from being worse.
“Do we have things we can certainly improve upon? Absolutely,” she said, adding that she would continue listening.
Students at East Community High School reacted to the mass shooting in a number of ways last week, said Leah Rush, a family support specialist with Say Yes to Education Buffalo, a nonprofit organization that serves Buffalo schools, as she sat in her office in the school’s health clinic on Friday.
Some were withdrawn; others got angry or cried.
“The overall temperature is that kids feel burnout, and I would say a little bit hopeless for change,” said Ms. Rush, who has worked inside the school and conducted home visits for the past six years.
She said students were already worried for their safety, especially since some had lost friends to gun violence. “They’re struggling to identify ways to change this, due to the years of segregation and oppression,” she said.
Samuel L. Radford III, the co-chairman of We the Parents of Western New York, a parent advocacy group, said the city must harness “all the good will that’s coming into the community, all the energy,” and figure out how to “change things for the better, not just rhetoric.”
Some teens are paving the way. Na’Kya McCann, 18, a first-year college student, grew up on Buffalo’s East Side and coaches cheerleading for a group of Black girls age 6 and up. She has created her own space for the children she works with to talk about the shooting.
She said she wanted to teach them to love themselves, in spite of racism and hate.
Ms. McCann after practice on Wednesday asked if the young cheerleaders knew their lives were valuable. The group of girls and one boy seated in a circle around her nodded, some looking down into their laps.
“Yes, they don’t agree with us,” Ms. McCann said. “But at the end of the day, their negative energy doesn’t have anything to do with us.”
Troy Closson and Jonah E. Bromwich contributed reporting.
The Seventh Iteration of The Symposium on The Abolition of Foreign Military Bases was held May 4-6, 2022 In Guantanamo, Cuba, near the 125-yea- old U.S. Naval Base located a few miles from the city of Guantanamo.
The Naval Base is the site of the infamous U.S. military prison that, as of April 2022, still holds 37 men, most of whom have never been tried as their trial would reveal the torture to which the U.S. has subjected them. Eighteen of the 37 are approved for release if U.S. diplomats can arrange for countries to accept them. The Biden administration has released three prisoners so far including one who had been cleared for release in the final days of the Obama Administration but was kept imprisoned for four more years by the Trump administration. The prison was opened twenty years ago on January 11, 2002.
In the city of Guantanamo, around 100 persons from 25 countries attended the symposium that detailed U.S. military bases around the world. Presentations on the U.S. military presence or the impact of U.S. military policies on their countries were given by persons from Cuba, United States, Puerto Rico, Hawaii, Colombia, Venezuela, Argentina, Brazil, Barbados, Mexico, Italy, Philippines, Spain, and Greece.
The symposium was co-sponsored by the Cuban Movement for Peace (MOVPAZ) and the Cuban Institute of Friendship with the Peoples (ICAP), the symposium.
In light of the challenges on peace and political and social stability in the region, participants endorsed the Proclamation of Latin America and the Caribbean as a Zone of Peace approved by the Heads of State and Government of the Community of Latin America and Caribbean States (CELAC) at its second Summit held in Havana in January 2014.
The summit declaration stated:
“This seminar took place amidst an ever more complex context, characterized by an increase in the aggressiveness and all kinds of interventionism by the U.S. imperialism, the European Union and NATO in their efforts to impose extreme dictates, by resorting to a media warfare, thus unleashing armed conflicts with varying intensities in different parts of the world while increasing controversies and tensions.
“To meet such nefarious purposes, foreign military bases and aggressive facilities of similar nature have been strengthened, for they are a fundamental component in this strategy, since they are instruments for direct and indirect interventions in the internal affairs of the countries where they are located as well as a permanent threat against neighboring nations.”
Ann Wright’s presentation to the Symposium on the U.S. Military in the Pacific
U.S. Army Colonel (Ret) and now peace activist Ann Wright was asked to speak to the symposium about current U.S. military bases and operations in the Pacific. Following is her speech on the U.S. military in the Pacific.
Presentation on U.S. Military Operations in the Western Pacific by Colonel Ann Wright, U.S. Army (Retired):
I want to give many thanks to the organizers of the VII International Seminar for Peace and the Abolition of Foreign Military Bases conference.
This is the third seminar I have been asked to speak at with my background of having been in the U.S. Army for nearly 30 years and retiring as a Colonel and also having been a U.S. diplomat for 16 years at U.S. Embassies in Nicaragua, Grenada, Somalia, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Micronesia, Afghanistan and Mongolia. However, the main reason I am invited is because I resigned from the U.S. government in 2003 in opposition to the U.S. war on Iraq and I have been an outspoken critic of U.S. war and imperial policies since my resignation.
First, I want to apologize to the people of Cuba for the continuing illegal, inhumane and criminal blockade the U.S. government has placed on Cuba for the past 60 years!
Second, I want to apologize for the illegal naval base that the U.S. has had at Guantanamo Bay for almost 120 years and that has been the scene of horrors of criminal acts committed on the 776 prisoners the U.S. has held there since January 2002. Thirty-seven men still are held including a man that is cleared for release but is still there. He was 17 when he was sold to the U.S. for a ransom, and he is now 37.
Finally, and very importantly, I want to apologize to Fernando Gonzalez Llort, now the President of the Cuban Institute of Friendship with the People’s (ICAP), who is one of the Cuban Five who were wrongly imprisoned for ten years by the United States.
For each symposium, I have focused on a different part to the world. Today I will speak about the U.S. Military in the Western Pacific.
U.S. continues its military build-up in the Western Pacific
With the world’s attention on the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the U.S. continues its dangerous build-up of military forces in the Western Pacific.
Pacific hot spot – Taiwan
Taiwan is a hot spot in the Pacific and for the world. Despite the 40-year agreement on the “One China Policy,” the U.S. sells weapons to Taiwan and has U.S. military trainers on the island.
Recent highly problematic visits to Taiwan by senior U.S. diplomats and Congressional members are done to purposefully anger China and elicit a military response, similar to the military exercises that the U.S. and NATO have done on the border of Russia.
On April 15, a delegation of seven U.S. Senators led by the chair of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations committee arrived in Taiwan following a steadily increasing high level of U.S. diplomatic visits over the past four months.
There are only 13 nations that continue to recognize Taiwan instead of the People’s Republic of China and four are in the Pacific: Palau, Tuvalu, the Marshall Islands and Nauru. The PRC lobbies these countries hard to switch and the U.S. lobbies the countries to keep recognizing Taiwan although officially the U.S. itself does not recognize Taiwan.
In Hawai’i, the headquarters of the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command that covers one-half the earth’s surface has 120 military bases in Japan with 53,000 military plus military families and 73 military bases in South Korea with 26,000 military plus families, six military bases on Australia, five military bases on Guam and 20 military bases in Hawai’i.
The Indo-Pacific command has coordinated numerous “freedom of navigation” armadas of U.S., UK, French, Indian and Australian warships sailing through China’s front yard, the South and East China Seas. Many of the armadas have had aircraft carriers and up to ten other ships, submarines, and aircraft for each aircraft carrier.
China has responded to the ships passing between Taiwan and the Chinese mainland and to the restless visits of U.S. diplomats with air armadas of up to fifty aircraft that fly to the edge of Taiwan’s air defense zone. The U.S. continues to provide military equipment and military trainers to Taiwan.
Rim of the Pacific largest naval war maneuvers in the world
In July and August 2022, the U.S. will host the largest naval war maneuver in the world with Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) returning in full force after a modified version in 2020 due to COVID. In 2022, 27 countries are scheduled to participate with 25,000 personnel, 41 ships, four submarines, more than 170 aircraft and will include anti-submarine warfare exercises, amphibious operations, humanitarian assistance training, missile shots and ground forces drills.
In other areas of the Pacific, the Australian military hosted the Talisman Sabre war maneuvers in 2021 with over 17,000 ground forces primarily from the U.S. (8,300) and Australia (8,000) but a few others from Japan, Canada, South Korea, UK, and New Zealand practiced maritime, land, air, information and cyber, and space warfare.
Darwin, Australia continues to host a six-month rotation of 2200 U.S. Marines that began ten years ago in 2012 and the U.S. military is spending $324 million to upgrade airfields, aircraft maintenance facilities aircraft parking areas, living, and working accommodation, messes, gyms, and training ranges.
Darwin will also be the site of a $270-million-dollar, 60-million-gallon jet fuel storage facility as the U.S. military moves large supplies to fuel closer to a potential war zone. A complicating factor is that a Chinese company now holds the lease on the Darwin port into which U.S. military fuel will be brought for transfer to the storage tanks.
The 80-year-old, massive 250-million-gallon underground jet fuel storage facility in Hawai’i will be finally closed due to public outrage after another huge fuel leak in November 2021 contaminated the drinking water of almost 100,000 persons in the Honolulu area, mostly military families and military facilities and jeopardizing the drinking water of the entire island.
The U.S. territory of Guam has suffered a continued increase in U.S. military units, bases, and equipment. Camp Blaz on Guam is the newest U.S. Marine base in the world and was opened in 2019.
Guam is the home base of six assassin Reaper drones assigned to the U.S. Marines as well as missile “defense” systems. U.S. Marines on Hawai’i were also provided six assassin drones as a part of their mission reorientation from heavy tanks to light mobile forces to fight “an enemy” on small islands of the Pacific.
Guam’s nuclear submarine base is continually busy as U.S. nuclear submarines lurk off China and North Korea. One U.S. nuclear submarine ran into an “unmarked” submarine mountain in 2020 and had major damage, that Chinese media eagerly reported.
The Navy now has five submarines homeported in Guam—up from two the service had based there as of November 2021.
In February 2022, four B-52 bombers and more than 220 airmen flew from Louisiana to Guam, joining thousands of U.S., Japanese and Australian service members on the island for the annual Cope North exercise which the U.S. Air Force states is for “training is focused on disaster relief and aerial combat.” About 2,500 U.S. service members and 1,000 personnel from the Japanese Air Self-Defense Force and the Royal Australian Air Force were in the Cope North war preparation maneuvers.
One-hundred-and-thirty aircraft involved in Cope North flew out of Guam and the islands of Rota, Saipan and Tinian in the Northern Marian Islands, Palau and the Federated States of Micronesia.
The U.S. military with 13,232 aircraft has almost three times more planes than Russia (4,143) and four times more than China (3,260.)
In the only positive demilitarization development in the Pacific, due to citizen activism, the U.S. military has scaled back military training on the small islands of Pagan and Tinian in the Northern Marianas islands near Guam and eliminated an artillery firing range on Tinian. However, large scale training and bombing continues at the Pohakuloa bombing range on the Big Island of Hawai’i with aircraft flying from the continental U.S. to drop bombs and return to the U.S.
The U.S. builds more military bases in the Pacific as China increases its non-military influence
In 2021, the Federated States of Micronesia agreed that the U.S. could build a military base on one of its 600 islands. The Republic of Palau is among several Pacific countries designated by the Pentagon as the possible site of a new military base. The U.S. plans to build a $197-million tactical radar system for Palau, which hosted U.S. military training exercises in 2021. In addition to its close U.S. ties, Palau is one of Taiwan’s four allies in the Pacific. Palau has refused to stop its recognition of Taiwan which prompted China to effectively ban Chinese tourists from visiting the island in 2018.
Both Palau and the Federated States of Micronesia have hosted U.S. military civil action teams over the past twenty years that have lived in small military compounds.
The U.S. continues its large military missile tracking base in the Marshall Islands for missile shot from Vandenburg Air Base in California. The U.S. is also responsible for the massive nuclear waste facility known as the Cactus Dome which is leaking toxic nuclear waste into the ocean from the debris of the 67 nuclear tests the U.S. conducted in the 1960s. Thousands of Marshall Islanders and their descendants still suffer from nuclear radiation from those tests.
China, which sees Taiwan as part of its territory in its “One China” policy, has tried to win over Taipei’s allies in the Pacific, persuading the Solomon Islands and Kiribati to switch sides in 2019.
On April 19, 2022, China and the Solomon Islands announced they had signed a new security agreement in which China could send military personnel, police, and other forces to the Solomon Islands “to assist in maintaining social order” and other missions. The security pact also would allow Chinese warships to use ports in the Solomon Islands to refuel and replenish supplies. The U.S. sent a high-level diplomatic delegation to the Solomon Islands to express its concern that China could send military forces to the South Pacific nation and destabilize the region. In response to the security pact, the U.S. will also discuss plans to reopen an embassy in the capital, Honiara, as it tries to increase its presence in the strategically important country amid growing concerns about Chinese influence. The embassy has been closed since 1993.
The island nation of Kiribati, about 2,500 miles southwest of Hawai’i, joined China’s Belt and Road Initiative to upgrade its infrastructure, including modernizing what was once a World War II-era U.S. military air base.
No peace on the Korean Peninsula
With its 73 U.S. bases in South Korea and 26,000 military personnel plus military families living in South Korea, the Biden administration continues to respond to North Korean missile tests with military maneuvers instead of diplomacy.
In mid-April 2022, the USS Abraham Lincoln strike group operated in waters off the Korean peninsula, amid tensions over North Korea’s missile launches and concerns that it could soon resume testing nuclear weapons. In early March North Korea conducted a full test of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) for the first time since 2017. This is first time since 2017 that a U.S. carrier group has sailed in the waters between South Korea and Japan.
While Moon Jae-In, the outgoing President of South Korea exchanged letters with North Korean head of state Kim Jung Un on April 22, 2022, advisers to South Korea’s president-elect Yoon Suk-yeol are asking for redeployment of U.S. strategic assets, such as aircraft carriers, nuclear bombers, and submarines, to the Korean peninsula during talks held on a visit to Washington in early April.
Three-hundred-and-fifty-six organizations in the U.S. and South Korea have called for the suspension of the very dangerous and provocative war drills the U.S. and South Korea militaries conduct.
While global attention is focused on the horrific war and destruction of Ukraine by Russia, the western Pacific continues to be a very dangerous place for global peace with the U.S. using military war exercises to inflame the hot spots of North Korea and Taiwan.
Stop All Wars!!!
—Popular Resistance, May 24, 2022
“A World of Peace and Social Justice Is Necessary”
Final Declaration: VII International Seminar for Peace and For the Abolition of Foreign Military Bases
Guantánamo, May 4 – 5, 2022
Delegates from 25 countries gathered in the province of Guantánamo, Cuba, from May 4 to 5, at the invitation of the Cuban Institute of Friendship with the Peoples and the World Peace Council, to celebrate the Seventh International Seminar for Peace and For the Abolition of Foreign Military Bases.
The seminar was attended by 84 delegates and guests from Argentina, Germany, Barbados, Brazil, Bolivia, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Cuba, Denmark, United States, Spain, the Philippines, Greece, Guyana, Mexico, United Kingdom, Puerto Rico, Palestine, Syria, Sierra Leone, Sweden, Switzerland, Venezuela, and Norway. Also in attendance were the main leaders of the World Peace Council (WPC) and its member organizations as well as personalities, fighters for peace, antiwar activists, and friends in solidarity with Cuba.
This seminar took place amidst an ever more complex context, characterized by an increase in the aggressiveness and all kinds of interventionism by the U.S. imperialism, the European Union and NATO in their efforts to impose extreme dictates, by resorting to a media warfare, thus unleashing armed conflicts with varying intensities in different parts of the world while increasing controversies and tensions.
To meet such nefarious purposes, foreign military bases and aggressive facilities of similar nature have been strengthened, for they are a fundamental component in this strategy, since they are instruments for direct and indirect interventions in the internal affairs of the countries where they are located as well as a permanent threat against neighboring nations.
The participants endorsed the Proclamation of Latin America and the Caribbean as a Zone of Peace approved by the Heads of State and Government of the Community of Latin America and Caribbean States (CELAC) at its second Summit held in Havana in January 2014.
Emphasis was made on the validity of the aforementioned Proclamation in the light of the challenges that are lingering upon peace and political and social stability in the region.
Taking into account all of the above, this Seventh International Seminar calls on all peace-loving and progressive forces to multiply the actions and initiatives against imperialism and its warmongering and interventionist policies, which continue to seriously endanger the destiny and the future of all humanity.
Likewise, the fighters for peace, gathered in Guantánamo, committed to:
· Denounce the aggressive and interventionist policies of the current U.S. administration and its NATO allies, which intend to dominate the world with the support of the current broad network of military bases, facilities, and enclaves; as well as the risk posed by the incorporation of new members to that belligerent organization.
· Continue to advise all peoples of the world about the dangers of a global nuclear war of incalculable consequences for humanity and remain permanently mobilized.
· Strengthen the demand for the closure of all foreign military bases, facilities and enclaves and the immediate withdrawal of foreign occupation troops in those countries where they have been deployed, for they are an instrument of the hegemonic policy of imperialism and the international financial capital.
· Call for actions and initiatives every year on or around February 23, marking the “International Day of Action against Foreign Military Bases” in all countries against these military facilities.
· Continue to demand the return of the territory illegally occupied by the U.S. Guantánamo Naval Base to its legitimate owner.
· Call for the lifting of the criminal economic, commercial, and financial blockade imposed by the government of the United States and strongly reject the full implementation of the Helms-Burton Act, whose purpose is to asphyxiate the heroic people of Cuba.
· Expand the dissemination of the content of the Proclamation of Latin America and the Caribbean as a Zone of Peace, given its relevance and validity in the Latin American and Caribbean political context.
· Strengthen the struggle against terrorism in all its forms and continue denouncing the link that exists between that scourge and imperialism.
· Multiply the actions of the international campaign for a world of peace, without nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons and make such actions be felt at foreign military bases and facilities.
· Denounce the actions against the environment and the health of the populations where foreign military bases are located.
· Continue expressing the broadest solidarity with the countries and peoples under occupation and colonial domain in the Caribbean, South America, Africa and the Middle East; and where there is a foreign military presence, like in Puerto Rico, the Malvinas, South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands, Syria, Palestine and Western Sahara.
· Denounce the current establishment of a new military base in the province of Neuquén in Argentina.
· Maintain and strengthen the denunciation of the interventionist actions of the U.S. imperialism and the European Union as well as the counterrevolutionary oligarchy in Venezuela, aimed at stopping and destroying the Bolivarian Revolution, which is also a clear threat to peace in the region.
· Express our support to the people of the United States, who struggle for peace and reject the expansion of the military bases and interventionist actions of that government.
· Denounce the imperialist actions against Nicaragua and strengthen solidarity with its people.
· Express solidarity with the people of Colombia and call for the implementation of the Peace Agreements, the respect for life and the observance of human rights.
· Express solidarity with the people of Puerto Rico, the indigenous populations and ethnic minorities in the United States in the light of the violations of their human rights by the U.S. government.
· Increase denunciations of the threats of the use of nuclear weapons, which will only be conducive to a generalized war of global dimensions.
· Reject the disinformation campaigns launched from the United States and the European Union.
· Ratify that this new war in Europe reveals the destabilizing nature of NATO, whose aggressive presence must be confronted. Human life should be respected, and a solution should be found based on a constructive and respectful dialogue among the parties involved.
Instead of encouraging the use of force and continuing to send financial assistance that is worth millions, and state-of-the-art military equipment, all parties have the responsibility to contribute to find a solution in the interest of world peace, in accordance with International Law and the UN Charter.
We, the pacifist, progressive, anti-imperialist, antimilitarist and anti-interventionist organizations reiterate our condemnation of the interference in the internal affairs of nations, the imperial reordering of the planet under the designs of imperialism and NATO and the militarism that threatens the human species and places us at the threshold of a new world confrontation.
We likewise express our solidarity with the Cuban people, who continue to make a great effort to achieve a more just, prosperous, democratic, and sustainable socialist society. We also convey fraternal greetings and express our recognition to the people of Guantánamo and its authorities for the warm welcome and the facilities granted for the successful celebration of this event.
All participants agreed to disseminate and follow up on this Declaration, which should become a point of reference to continue strengthening the work in favor of peace and against foreign military bases.
Guantánamo, Cuba, May 5, 2022
Karl Marx 204th birthday anniversary
—Popular Resistance, May 24, 2022
By Thomas Fuller, May 25, 2022https://www.nytimes.com/2022/05/25/us/american-gun-violence.html
The repetition of horror numbs the mind: Only 11 days ago there was Buffalo, with a man driven by racism gunning down 10 people at a supermarket. The next day another angry man walked into a Presbyterian church in Laguna Woods, Calif., and killed one person and wounded five others. And now, Uvalde, Texas — a repeat of what was once thought unfathomable: the killing of at least 19 elementary school children in second, third and fourth grades.
“I guess it’s something in society we know will happen again, over and over,” said Neil Heslin, whose 6-year-old son, Jesse Lewis, died in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012.
The misery mounts, and yet nothing changes, leaving Americans with little more to do than keep lists, mental spreadsheets of death that treat events like Uvalde as just another morbid tally with superlatives like “second-deadliest shooting in an elementary school.”
Each event evokes some atrocity from the past, the exact details of each shooting growing more indistinct by the year: The latest death toll of 21 at Robb Elementary School in Texas surpasses the shooting in Parkland, Fla., in 2018, when 17 people were killed. It falls short of the deadliest school shooting — when 26 people were killed in 2012 at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn.
These are the mathematics of American gun massacres.
All three school shootings — Newtown, Parkland and now Uvalde — have eclipsed Columbine in 1999, when such events still had the power to shock the nation.
The reasons for the violence are familiar and incontrovertible. The United States has many more guns than citizens, about 400 million firearms, according to a 2018 survey conducted by the nonpartisan Small Arms Survey, and 331 million people.
For more than a decade now, semiautomatic handguns, purchased for personal protection, outsell rifles, which have been typically used in hunting.
And the coronavirus pandemic stirred an even greater gun-buying craze. Annual domestic gun production increased from 3.9 million in 2000 to 11.3 million in 2020, according to a report released this month by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. A vast majority of those firearms stayed in the United States.
The toll of the violence, especially on children, has only grown. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that the rate of gun deaths of children 14 and younger rose by roughly 50 percent from the end of 2019 to the end of 2020.
Last year, more than 1,500 children and teenagers younger than 18 were killed in homicides and accidental shootings, compared with about 1,380 in 2020, according to the Gun Violence Archive, a database tracking gun deaths.
Many details about the Uvalde shooting have yet to be made public, including the weapons used by the gunman — an 18-year-old man who died at the scene, the authorities said — and how he obtained them. But the emotional turmoil of the killings was sadly familiar.
“Why are we willing to live with this carnage?” President Biden said on Tuesday night after returning from a trip to Asia. “Why do we keep letting this happen?”
Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut, a young legislator when the children were killed in Sandy Hook, exhorted his fellow senators to action on Tuesday. “What are we doing? What are we doing?” he said on the Senate floor.
These were questions with typical answers: not much of anything on the federal level. Republicans, often appealing to the Second Amendment, have blocked efforts to add stiffer background checks for gun purchasers every time another major mass shooting jostles the nation’s conscience. Still, within hours of the shooting in Uvalde, Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and the majority leader, moved to clear the way to force votes in the coming days on legislation that would strengthen background checks.
In the meantime states like Texas have forged ahead with some of the least-restrictive gun laws in the United States, priding itself as a state with responsible gun owners — more than a million — even with its recent history of mass shootings.
Gov. Greg Abbott signed a wide-ranging law in 2021 that ended the requirement for Texans to obtain a license to carry handguns, allowing virtually anyone over the age of 21 to carry one. The landmark law made the state one of the largest to adopt a “constitutional carry” law that basically eliminates most restrictions on the ability to carry handguns.
Mr. Abbott described it as “the strongest Second Amendment legislation in Texas history.”
Mass shootings have become so common in the United States that only a small fraction rise to attract widespread attention beyond the communities directly affected. On the same weekend as the Buffalo killings, more than a dozen people were wounded by gunfire in downtown Milwaukee, near the arena where an N.B.A. playoff game ended hours earlier, the authorities said.
Two weeks earlier, the owner and two employees of the Broadway Inn Express motel in Biloxi, Miss., were fatally shot, and another person was also shot dead during a carjacking.
Less than four weeks before that, a barrage of gunfire in Sacramento killed six people and wounded 12 in a shooting that the authorities said involved at least five gunmen.
On Monday, the F.B.I. released data showing a rapidly escalating pattern of public shootings in the United States.
The bureau identified 61 “active shooter” attacks in 2021 that killed 103 people and injured 130 others. That was the highest annual total since 2017, when 143 people were killed, and hundreds more were wounded, numbers inflated by the sniper attack on the Las Vegas Strip.
The 2021 total represented a 52 percent increase from the tally of such shootings in 2020, and a 97 percent increase from 2017, according to the F.B.I.’s Active Shooter Incidents in the United States in 2021 report.
In Uvalde, Rey Chapa has a nephew who was at the school during the shooting but was not injured.
“This is just evil,” Mr. Chapa said in an interview, using an expletive. He was waiting to hear back from family and friends about the conditions of other children and scrolling through Facebook for updates. “I’m afraid I’m going to know a lot of these kids that were killed.”
Contributing reporting was Emily Cochrane, Catie Edmondson, Christine Hauser, Eduardo Medina, Sarah Mervosh, Alexandra E. Petri, Michael D. Shear, Glenn Thrush and Elizabeth Williamson.
My NYT Comment:
I was born August 10, 1945. The U.S. dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima August 6 and Nagasaki August 9 that same year. As a child I grew up playing "cowboys and Indians" with toy cowboy cap-guns and toy Indian bows-and-arrows. Our nation was built on the massacre of Native Americans and the enslavement of Black people. This nation's wars are never-ending. Police murders are never-ending. Our children are trained to use violence to solve problems. Pow! Bang! Kaboom! How are children to learn other ways to solve problems if our government is, as Martin Luther King suggested, "the biggest purveyor of violence in the world!" The police have license to kill a car thief—clearly placing the worth of the car over the worth of a life—or the worth of a counterfeit $20.00 bill over the life of George Floyd. That's because our society is based upon protecting the private profits of the few over the lives of those who toil to produce those profits for their employers/enslavers. And toy guns, Superheroes, and violent video games are designed to preserve and reinforce this violence—as if there is no other way to live. Providing for human needs and wants instead of private profits, police, and war, is the only way to end violence for good! In the meantime, BAN AUTOMATIC WEAPONS! —Bonnie Weinstein
By Diana Buttu, May 25, 2022
Ms. Buttu is a political analyst and a former legal adviser to the Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas, and Palestinian negotiators.https://www.nytimes.com/2022/05/25/opinion/shireen-abu-akleh-killed.html?action=click&module=Well&pgtype=Homepage§ion=Opinion
Bullet holes on a tree and a makeshift memorial mark where the Palestinian-American Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh was shot and killed in the West Bank city of Jenin in May. Credit...Majdi Mohammed/Associated Press
I first met the pioneering Palestinian American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh more than two decades ago. She was in the early days of her career at Al Jazeera, and I was at the start of my stint as a legal adviser to the Palestine Liberation Organization.
As a newcomer to the occupied West Bank, I was in awe of Shireen’s steeliness while reporting on Israel’s invasion of the Jenin refugee camp in 2002. On May 11, 2022, she was killed while covering an Israeli military raid in the city. Her producer was also wounded. Both were clearly identified as journalists, wearing body armor boldly marked “press” for all to see. The evidence to date points to her being shot by an Israeli soldier, most likely a sniper. Israel said it had identified the soldier’s gun that might have killed her.
The State Department has said that any investigation into her killing should be thorough, comprehensive and transparent and end with “full accountability and those responsible for her death being held responsible for their actions.”
But that accountability will be hard to come by. Israel’s actions in the aftermath of Shireen’s killing demonstrate how the military by and large tries to evade accountability, especially when Palestinian civilians, including journalists, are killed.
Indeed, Israel’s military announced it will not open an immediate criminal probe into Shireen’s death, though an “operational inquiry” would continue.
For that inquiry, Israeli investigators have asked the Palestinian Authority to hand over the bullet that killed Shireen, claiming that they would not be able to reach a definitive answer without this cooperation. Palestinian officials have refused, and it’s not hard to see why. As Palestinian officials and human rights groups have noted, Israel has a long track record of failing to adequately investigate itself.
Moreover, any investigation into the killing of Shireen must put it in the proper light: Israel has had a contentious relationship with some of its foreign journalists. In 2017 it tried to shut down the offices of Shireen’s employer, Al Jazeera, and just a year ago it bombed the offices of The Associated Press and Al Jazeera in Gaza City, destroying a 12-story building in a densely populated urban area. The military claimed that it was targeting Hamas military intelligence. But press-freedom groups accused Israel of trying to obstruct journalists, and A.P.’s president and C.E.O. at the time said there was no indication of any Hamas activity in the building.
A complaint filed at the International Criminal Court by the International Federation of Journalists and two Palestinian organizations two weeks before Shireen was killed accused Israel of systematically targeting Palestinian journalists working in the occupied territories. The Committee to Protect Journalists has confirmed the killing of 19 journalists in the occupied territories since 1992, 15 of whom were Palestinians. (Other organizations’ numbers are higher; the complaint to the I.C.C. says that at least 46 journalists have been killed since 2000, not including Shireen.)
But even when Israel agrees to conduct an investigation, it often seems the outcome is all but predetermined. After an uproar over the Israeli military’s open-fire policy during protests in Gaza in 2018 and 2019, which resulted in the deaths of more than 200 mostly unarmed Palestinians, Israel opened investigations into the deaths. In a review of the investigations, B’Tselem, an Israeli human rights group, and the Gaza-based Palestinian Center for Human Rights criticized the inquiries, saying that such investigations “are part of Israel’s whitewashing mechanism, and their main purpose remains to silence external criticism, so that Israel can continue to implement its policy unchanged.”
Just last month Israel’s Supreme Court rejected a request by human rights organizations to reopen an investigation into the killing of four children playing on a beach in Gaza by an Israeli airstrike during the 2014 war, upholding a decision that had deemed it a “tragic accident.” Yet again, no one was punished.
Only in rare instances do Israeli troops face imprisonment. Take the case of Elor Azaria, a soldier who was captured on video shooting an incapacitated Palestinian assailant in the head as he lay on the ground in Hebron in 2016. Despite visual evidence that he shot a defenseless human being, Mr. Azaria served only nine months in prison. Some Israeli cabinet members welcomed his release, and a few said his record should be wiped clean.
When Shireen was killed, there was an immediate uproar. Her colleagues and other witnesses came forward to say that Israeli soldiers had shot her and her producer. Israeli officials were quick to deflect blame. On the day of the attack, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett repeated claims that Shireen might have been shot by a Palestinian — an assertion quickly debunked by B’Tselem. An army spokesman even made the chilling claim that Shireen and her colleague were “armed with cameras.” Only belatedly did Israel acknowledge that she may have been hit by Israeli fire.
Two days after she was killed, Shireen was buried in East Jerusalem. During the funeral procession, Israeli police beat mourners and pallbearers, nearly causing them to drop her coffin. Police seized the Palestinian flag from it and her hearse.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken declared that the United States was “deeply troubled” by the images. In a recent letter, 57 U.S. lawmakers have demanded that the State Department and Federal Bureau of Investigation begin an investigation into Shireen’s death. In response, Michael Herzog, Israel’s ambassador to the United States, said that Israeli troops “would never intentionally target members of the press.” This appears to be an attempt to absolve Israel of any wrongdoing.
The United States and the rest of the international community must ensure that there is full accountability for her death. For too long, Israeli political and military leaders have fostered an environment in which Israeli soldiers apparently consider the lives of Palestinians disposable. The very least that I, others who loved her and those who care about justice and fundamental human decency can do is demand that those responsible be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.
I last saw Shireen a few days before she filmed her last report. Our final conversation was quick; she expressed condolences for the death of my father and said we should meet in person when I was next in Ramallah. I promised to do so. Instead, I walked in her funeral procession.
By Globe Staff, May 25, 2022https://www.msn.com/en-us/sports/nba/when-are-we-going-to-do-something-warriors-coach-steve-kerr-makes-emotional-statement-after-texas-shooting/ar-AAXGisD
Steve Kerr is tired of waiting for gun control.
The championship-winning coach of the Golden State Warriors issued an impassioned call for action in the wake of the shooting that killed at least 19 children in Uvalde, Texas, Tuesday.
19 students, 2 adults killed in Texas elementary school shooting, officials say
Ahead of Game Four of the NBA Western Conference Finals, Kerr took no questions regarding basketball. Instead, he focused on the recent mass shootings in Buffalo, California, and Texas, demanding Washington act on gun control.
“When are we going to do something?” a visibly emotional Kerr exclaimed.
“I’m so tired of getting up here and offering condolences to the devastated families that are out there,” he continued. “I’m tired of the moments of silence. Enough.”
Kerr then trained his ire on senators who have not passed H.R. 8, a legislation on background checks already approved by the House of Representatives.
“So I ask you, [minority leader] Mitch McConnell, I ask all of you senators who refuse to do anything about the violence and school shootings and supermarket shootings, I ask you, are you going to put your own desire for power ahead of the lives of our children and our elderly and our churchgoers, because that’s what it looks like,” Kerr said. “I’m fed up, I’ve had enough.”
He next asked everyone in the room to imagine that the victims were their own children or family members. “We can’t get numb to this,” he implored.
“It’s pathetic, I’ve had enough,” Kerr finished before storming off.
Kerr, a former sharpshooter for the Michael Jordan-era Chicago Bulls and one of the winningest coaches in NBA history, is a frequent voice in basketball circles on social issues.
But the topic of gun control is also a personal one for Kerr. His father, Malcolm Kerr, was assassinated in 1984 while he was president of the American University in Beirut.
By Andréa Becker, May 26, 2022
Dr. Becker is a medical sociologist.https://www.nytimes.com/2022/05/26/opinion/men-abortion.html
Matt Lavallee was in college when he learned his girlfriend was pregnant. “The news scared me,” he said, acknowledging that an unintended pregnancy was an even more daunting prospect for his girlfriend. “But there was no question that abortion was the best option for us.”
Now in his 40s, he shares this abortion story whenever he can, including on social media. If his girlfriend had been unable to obtain that abortion, he believes, both of their lives would have been drastically affected. At the time, neither of them had stable jobs or housing, and finding the $400 for the abortion was a struggle.
“It’s easy for men to see this as someone else’s problem, but it’s not,” said Mr. Lavallee. “Without the right to abortion, all of our lives would be much worse. I am living proof.”
We don’t often hear abortion stories from cisgender men like Mr. Lavallee, even though they are responsible for the overwhelming majority of the world’s unplanned pregnancies, and so often benefit when an abortion occurs. The much more familiar pattern when efforts are made to curtail abortion is for a slew of mostly women to share their abortion stories.
Reproductive health science has likewise disproportionately focused on the people who have abortions. Researchers like myself have devoted our careers to examining not only who gets abortions, but what the experience is like, what barriers must be overcome and how having an abortion or being denied one alters a person’s life trajectory. This research has found that access to abortion is associated with improved physical and mental health and is correlated to higher educational and financial attainment in the long run for both women and their children.
Yet amid all this abortion research, some critical questions remain: What’s the effect on men who co-conceive and then the pregnancy ends in abortion? And who even are these men?
The data on who gets an abortion is extensive. We know that about one in four U.S. women will have an abortion, and that about 60 percent are in their 20s, about 75 percent are low income, about 62 percent are religious and around more than half are already parents.
By contrast, there’s scant data on how cis men benefit from abortions, let alone demographic data that characterizes this population. This is partly because of methodology concerns: A man might not necessarily know he helped cause an abortion. Moreover, amid continuous attacks on abortion rights, the urgency among researchers has logically been to demonstrate the benefits of abortion access for those who can become pregnant.
Despite this gap in the literature, the data we do have on male abortion beneficiaries indicates that the benefits extend well beyond the person having the abortion. For instance, one study found that among men involved in a pregnancy before the age of 20, those whose partner had an abortion were more likely to have graduated from college compared to those whose partner gave birth.
Given the strong connection between education and income level, it’s plausible that male abortion beneficiaries experience increased income benefits over their lifetime as well, though there isn’t yet data to support this. So far, no such large quantitative study has been conducted on the benefits of abortion for adult men above the age of 20.
One of the few social scientists who has conducted research on adult men involved in abortions is Jennifer Reich, a professor of sociology at the University of Colorado, Denver. “Everybody benefits when individuals can control their own reproduction, but the benefit can be invisible for cis men since they don’t absorb the risks of pregnancy and it’s not written on their bodies,” said Dr. Reich.
In interviews she conducted for a 2008 study, men said abortion made it possible for them to continue their education or employment goals and to “evaluate whether this was the relationship they most wanted to have a lifelong connection to.” Dr. Reich also found that the 20 men in her sample had been involved in 30 abortions, which could suggest that a smaller number of men are involved in a larger proportion of abortions, further supporting the need to understand men’s role.
Dr. Brian T. Nguyen, an assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Southern California, has established the EMERGE lab to begin to fill the gaps in what’s known about men’s role in reproductive health care. His team has estimated that approximately one in five men has been involved in an abortion, which is likely an underestimate, as some men might misreport because of stigma or because they are unaware of the abortion. “Men can and should be involved in sexual and reproductive health care, and we’ll do this work until it becomes very clear that this is everyone’s issue,” he said.
In a forthcoming paper that draws on a survey data from over 200 men who have been involved in an abortion, Dr. Nguyen and his colleagues found that approximately half of the men surveyed said they desired the abortion so they could focus on the children they already had, which mirrors motivations reported by women who choose abortion that I’ve found in my research as well.
Still, such studies represent a tiny fraction of the existing research on abortion. The lack of focus on men’s role in abortion and how it affects them reflects a broader issue in the way society considers reproductive health.
“We spend so little time thinking about how men’s reproductive health matters and what men’s experiences of reproduction are,” said Rene Almeling, a professor of sociology at Yale.
Dr. Almeling has found that society’s vision of a man’s role in reproduction has come to be limited to “having sex and providing sperm.”
This dearth in knowledge reinforces ideas about reproductive health as an issue for women alone, which results in their shouldering all reproductive responsibility. In the case of abortion specifically, the lack of knowledge and cultural attention obfuscates the benefit that abortion access has for the partners of pregnant people as well.
According to Dr. Nguyen, the lack of focus on men’s involvement in reproductive health care may lead men to tune out the battle for abortion rights or even become opposed to them because they feel unheard or unwelcome in the conversation.
It’s easy to imagine the benefit of shifting some of the focus onto men’s role in abortion. However, there’s also an inherent tension around the question of what role men should have in abortion decisions. While the data we do have suggests that all parties benefit from having access to abortion, the pregnant partner solely carries the burden of the physical dangers of pregnancy and childbirth, which in the United States is 14 times as deadly than abortion and is particularly dangerous for Black women. “It is the person whose body can be or is pregnant who should be making any and all decisions,” said Dr. Almeling.
At the same time, shedding more light on the invisible benefits of abortion for men could be a powerful opportunity to combat stigma and bring more people into the fight for reproductive rights. After all, women have been telling their abortion stories for years, and Roe is still expected to fall.
“South Koreans live with an enormous tolerance for abuse” from the powerful, said one famously bullied advocate. A backlash has erupted.
By Choe Sang-Hun, May 26, 2022https://www.nytimes.com/2022/05/26/business/south-korea-bullying-gapjil.html
SEOUL — A boss orders a worker to feed and clean up after his dog. An airline heiress makes a taxiing passenger plane return to the gate to remove a flight attendant who rubbed her the wrong way. The 10-year-old granddaughter of a newspaper tycoon hurls insults at her chauffeur, threatening to fire him for being spoiled.
Such behavior has become so common in South Korea that the country now has a name for it: “gapjil.”
The word is a portmanteau for when “gap,” people with power, abuse “eul,” those who work for them. And in South Korea’s deeply hierarchical society, where one’s social standing is determined by profession, job title and wealth, hardly anyone has escaped its claws.
More recently, though, gapjil has triggered a backlash. On websites, street banners and even stickers in public bathrooms, government agencies, the police, civic groups and corporations are offering “gapjil hotlines” encouraging citizens to blow the whistle on officials and bosses who abuse their authority.
Using bullying language, offering bribes, preying on subcontractors and failing to pay workers on time are all examples of gapjil. On college campuses, students are hanging placards accusing “gapjil professors” of sexual harassment.
The campaigns appear to be working. Politicians, senior government officials and corporate bigwigs have all seen their reputations ruined after gapjil scandals. The public has swelled with pride — and a good dose of schadenfreude — while watching the rich and powerful fall from grace for being, well, jerks.
Gapjil became an election issue during the presidential campaign. The wife of Lee Jae-myung, a leading candidate, was forced to apologize after she was accused of treating government officials as though they were her personal servants, having them pick up takeout food and do her holiday shopping while Mr. Lee was a provincial governor. Mr. Lee lost the election by a razor-thin margin.
“South Koreans live with an enormous tolerance for abuse, but when they can’t take it anymore and explode, they call it gapjil,” said Park Chang-jin, a former Korean Air flight attendant who campaigns against gapjil as a leader of the small opposition Justice Party.
Mr. Park knows the feeling.
In 2014, Cho Hyun-ah, the daughter of the former Korean Air chairman Cho Yang-ho, forced a passenger jet taxiing at Kennedy International Airport in New York to return to the gate because she didn’t like the way the macadamia nuts were served to her in first class. Mr. Park and another flight attendant were made to kneel before Ms. Cho, who let the plane depart only after Mr. Park had been kicked off the plane.
The Korean Air family became the epitome of gapjil again, in 2018, when audio and video files emerged showing another daughter, Cho Hyun-min, and her mother, Lee Myung-hee, screaming insults at workers. The chairman had to apologize and banish both of his daughters from management positions at the company.
There was a time when South Koreans were more likely to tolerate such behavior, especially when it involved the superrich families who run the country’s business conglomerates, known as chaebol, said Park Jum-kyu, an official at Gabjil 119, a civic group that offers legal advice for victims. (The group uses an alternate spelling of the word.)
“But people now demand higher standards on what behavior is acceptable and what is not,” Mr. Park said. “Now, when someone says to an authority figure, ‘Are you doing gapjil to me?’ the accusation packs a punch.”
South Korea has one of the longest workweeks among the world’s wealthier nations, and gapjil is often cited as one of the reasons behind the country’s miserable work conditions. The phenomenon takes many forms, like excessive hours with no overtime and bullying by supervisors.
“I hated it when they seemed to have nothing to do other than going around the office commenting on female workers’ clothes, saying that we could not get married because of the way we dressed,” said Hong Chae-yeong, referring to older male managers at her former corporate job. Ms. Hong, 30, said that behavior was one of the reasons she had quit.
Corporate and government elites have been notorious for a type of gapjil known as “imperial protocol,” which includes having a row of underlings hold umbrellas or commandeer elevators while ordinary people are forced to take the stairs. In 2017, Kim Moo-sung, a political boss, became a symbol of that sort of entitlement when he rolled a suitcase at an assistant at the airport. He later became the subject of public ridicule.
Some trace the origins of gapjil to South Korea’s military dictators, who enforced a command-and-compliance culture that remains pervasive. It is both “the basic grammar” and “a deep rooted malaise” of a South Korean society that reflects the “rankism its people are addicted to,” Kang Jun-man, a media scholar, wrote in his book on gapjil.
“People who suffer gapjil at work commit gapjil themselves when they are in the position of authority, as when they talk to a call-center employee on the phone,” said Cho Eun-mi, 37, who quit a stationery factory in April because of her manager’s abusive language.
But the country’s march toward democracy is also filled with stories of rebellion against the powerful: citizens driving a dictator into exile, taking up arms against a military junta and holding massive rallies to win a right to free election.
The impeachment of President Park Geun-hye in 2017 was started when it was revealed that her secret adviser, Choi Soon-sil, was accused of forcing an elite university to change its admission policies to accept her daughter. “Money speaks,” the daughter said in a Facebook comment that triggered public outrage.
The recent trend of whistle-blowing on gapjil also reflects a deep mistrust of the justice system in South Korea, where many have said the courts rarely punish corporate elites who act as though they are above the law. In 2007, Kim Seung-youn, chairman of the Hanwha conglomerate, was imprisoned only briefly after assaulting workers.
And in 2010, Chey Cheol-won, a member of the family that ran the SK conglomerate, received only a suspended prison sentence after battering a union activist with an aluminum baseball bat.
When victims of gapjil exhaust resources to address their grievances legally, they often resort to exposing the abusers in the court of public opinion, usually with the help of camera phones and social media. In 2018, video footage emerged of Yang Jin-ho, the head of an online file-sharing company, ruthlessly slapping a former employee.
In 2017, audio files emerged of Lee Jang-han, chairman of the pharmaceutical company Chong Kun Dang, harassing his chauffeur with a stream of insults. “What kind of bastard your father was to have raised a son like you?” he said.
Mr. Yang was imprisoned for violence and other crimes, while Mr. Lee was forced to hold a news conference to apologize.
Despite the anti-gapjil movement, South Korea may have a long way to go to make its work environment more fair and its society more equal. A law against workplace harassment took effect in 2019, but it mandates only disciplinary actions or a financial penalty of up to $8,000 against offenders. In a survey by Gabjil 119 last year, nearly 29 percent of workers reported abuse at work.
“Gapjil is still treated as something that should be resolved within the company,” said Yun Ji-young, a human rights lawyer who helps gapjil victims. “There is a huge animosity against people who take the problem outside.”
Without more accountability, though, Mr. Park at Gabjil 119 fears little will change for South Korean workers being tormented by their abusive bosses. “We have ended the military dictatorship, and we have impeached a president,” he said. “But we still have to change our workplace culture.”
By Ryan Busse, May 25, 2022https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2022/may/25/shootings-arent-a-sign-america-is-broken-its-working-exactly-as-intended
I was a firearms exec for years. The industry used to adhere to self-imposed rules and norms – until gun makers and lobby groups like the NRA realized fear and extremism sold more guns.
After the horrific mass murders in Buffalo and Uvalde, Americans are hearing a familiar chorus emanating from the cable networks. Every host and guest seems shocked. They search for the right words.
Eventually, their message becomes almost universal: Something is horribly broken in a country that allows troubled young men to arm themselves to the teeth and kill innocent people – especially young children. Social media explodes, expressing a version of the shock that the first lady, Jill Biden, expressed after the murders in Uvalde – “Stunned. Angry. Heartbroken.”
I too am angry and heartbroken. But I am not stunned, and I don’t believe anything is broken. The truth is that Americans now live within an escalating system of radicalized gun tragedy that is working exactly as expected.
I know. For more than two decades, I worked in the highest levels of the firearms industry. I spent my career working to hold on to the principles of responsible gun ownership and fighting against the very predictable results of increasing extremism and the pursuit of profit above all else.
I wrote my book Gunfight about the truth of what the industry has become and about my life fighting it from the inside. Today I’m a senior adviser to the gun violence prevention group founded by former congresswoman Gabby Giffords – not a career path I thought I’d have when I first started out in the firearms industry, but one that felt very necessary to me given what I experienced.
For the first few years of my career, which started in 1995, the industry adhered to self-imposed rules and norms – such as restricting tactical gear like that worn by the Buffalo and Uvalde shooters to the law enforcement and military sections of trade shows. Even up until about 15 years ago, self-imposed policies like this were strictly enforced by the industry’s own trade association, the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF). Industry norms prohibited displaying tactical gear, certain marketing campaigns or incendiary firearms names, for fear of what might spread throughout the country.
But as the increasing vitriol of the National Rifle Association (NRA) proved politically effective, some in the gun business realized this messaging could be adopted by the firearms industry to sell more guns. All that was required for success was a dedication to frighteningly dangerous rhetoric and increasingly powerful weaponry. Cultural norms and responsibility would have to go.
The extreme risks and likely outcomes of such an experiment seemed obvious to me and to others. I refused to join the growing tactical market and worked to weaken the NRA behind the scenes. And I wasn’t the only one.
A number of other people in the industry sounded their own alarms about the impacts of “terrorist rifles” and a nation with unlimited gun sales and insufficient responsibility. Those warnings resulted in the quick and very public loss of careers at the hands of the NRA and its growing radicalized troll army.
Everyone else got the message. Speaking up for responsibility was not to be tolerated. Unpleasantries like radicalized young men with too many guns were to be treated like diffuse pollution that could be dealt with by someone downstream. Even when unspeakable tragedies, such as the murders at Sandy Hook, were linked directly to shockingly irresponsible marketing campaigns that promised a metaphorical “man card” to any young man who purchased an AR-15, the NSSF opted to look the other way.
For years, the NSSF worked behind the scenes to criticize and marginalize people like me who spoke up. Today the organization openly attacks anyone who speaks out in support of gun safety. But it has nothing to say about Kyle Rittenhouse or armed men menacing the Michigan capital. So far there is silence from the NSSF and the NRA on the 10 Black Americans murdered in Buffalo and the 19 children and two teachers murdered in Uvalde.
The NSSF helped craft a new world of gun lobby extremism in which profits are all that matter. With the election of America’s first Black president, the lobby embraced conspiracy-mongering, racism and fear campaigns. Gun sales soared from less than 8m guns in 2008 to more than 16m in 2016.
In 2016, the firearms industry was all-in on Donald Trump and even piped his 2017 American Carnage inauguration speech throughout the industry trade show like a religious ceremony. The industry celebrated because Trump was the perfect salesman for more guns. This system was simply being pushed to its next stage.
This Friday, Trump is scheduled to speak at the annual NRA convention in Houston – less than 300 miles from Uvalde. The convention hall will be full of NSSF industry members lining up to court Trump and his frenzied fans. The system continues to work just as it was designed by the NRA and NSSF; from their point of view, nothing about it is broken.
There is a reason why troubled 18-year-olds can buy assault rifles, body armor and high-capacity magazines. There is a reason why racism, conspiracies and increasingly dangerous idolatry infect parts of our country, and federal gun legislation has stalled time and time again. It’s the gun lobby – the NRA, the NSSF and the politicians who are frightened of them.
The horrific murders of second- and third-graders are part of that system. It’s time to rebuild it. We can all be safer from gun violence if we’re willing to stand up to the gun lobby and the politicians who champion their dangerous extremism in pursuit of profits.
By Jamelle Bouie, May 27, 2022https://www.nytimes.com/2022/05/27/opinion/uvalde-senate-gun-control.html
The antislavery politicians of the 1840s and 1850s did not speak with a single voice.
Some opposed slavery for moral and religious reasons and hoped to wipe its terrible mark from the body politic of the United States. Some opposed slavery but denied that the federal government had any right to interfere with the institution in the 15 states where it persisted. They were committed to “free soil” in the West more than abolition in the South. Still others weren’t concerned with slavery per se as much as they were fiercely opposed to Black migration from the South. They opposed slavery, and supported colonization, because it was the way to ensure that the United States would remain a “white man’s democracy.”
What tied the antislavery factions of American politics to one another wasn’t a single view of slavery or Black Americans but a shared view of the crisis facing the American republic. That crisis, they said in unison, was the “slave power.”
The “slave power” thesis was the belief that a slaveholding oligarchy ran the United States for its own benefit. It had ruled the nation for decades, went the argument, and now intended to expand slavery across the continent and even further into the North.
The “slave power” thesis was also a claim about the structure of American government itself. As these antislavery politicians saw it, “the real underpinnings of southern power were regional unity, parity in the Senate, and the three-fifths clause of the Constitution,” the historian Leonard L. Richards writes in “The Slave Power: The Free North and Southern Domination, 1780 to 1860.” Together, this gave the slaveholding oligarchs of the South a virtual lock on much of the federal government, including the Supreme Court. “Between Washington’s election and Lincoln’s,” Richards points out, “nineteen of the thirty-four Supreme Court appointees were slaveholders.”
For antislavery politicians, the counter-majoritarian institutions of the American system enabled a faction that threatened democracy. The question of the “slave power,” then, was ultimately one of self-government.
The “slaveholding interest” is “resolved upon the dethronement of the principles of republicanism and the establishment in their stead of an oligarchy, bound together by a common interest in the ownership of slaves,” declared the men who gathered in Pittsburgh on Feb. 22, 1856, for one of the first national meetings of the Republican Party. “The time draws nigh, fellow-countrymen, when you will be called on to decide upon the policy and principles of the General Government.” Your votes, they continued, “will determine whether Slavery shall continue to be the paramount and controlling interest in the Federal Administration, or whether other rights and other interests shall resume the degree of consideration to which they are entitled.”
You’ve probably guessed by now that this is not an idle history lesson. I am thinking about “the slave power” because I am thinking about the ways that narrow, destructive factions can capture the counter-majoritarian institutions of the American system for their own ends. I am thinking of how they can then use the levers of government to impose their vision of society and civil life against the will of the majority. And I am thinking of this in the context of guns, gun violence and the successful movement, thus far, to make the United States an armed society.
Two weeks ago, a gunman killed 10 people at a grocery store in Buffalo. Three days ago, a gunman killed 21 people, including 19 children, at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas.
Although there has been, in the wake of both atrocities, the requisite call for new gun control laws, no one believes that Congress will actually do much of anything to address gun violence or reduce the odds of gun massacres. The reason is that the Republican Party does not want to. And with the legislative filibuster still in place (preserved, as it has been for the past year, by at least two Democratic senators), Senate Republicans have all the votes they need to stop a bill — any bill — from passing.
The filibuster, however, is only one part of the larger problem of the capture of America’s political institutions by an unrepresentative minority whose outright refusal to compromise is pushing the entire system to a breaking point.
Large majorities of Americans favor universal background checks, bans on “assault-style” weapons, bans on high-capacity magazines and “red flag” laws that would prevent people who might harm themselves or others from purchasing guns.
But the American political system was not designed to directly represent national majorities. To the extent that it does, it’s via the House of Representatives. The Senate, of course, represents the states. And in the Senate (much to the chagrin of many of the framers), population doesn’t matter — each state gets equal say. Fifty-one lawmakers representing a minority of voters can block 49 lawmakers representing a majority of them (and that’s before, again, we get to the filibuster).
Add the polarization of voters by geography — a rural and exurban Republican Party against an urban and suburban Democratic Party — and the picture goes from bad to perverse. Not only can Republicans, who tend to represent the most sparsely populated states, win a majority of the Senate with far less than a majority of votes nationally, but by using the filibuster, a small number of Republican senators representing an even smaller faction of voters can kill legislation supported by most voters and most members of Congress.
The Senate might have been counter-majoritarian by design, but there is a difference between a system that tempers majorities and one that stymies them from any action at all. We have the latter, and like Congress under the failed Articles of Confederation, it makes a mockery of what James Madison called the “republican principle,” which is supposed to enable a majority of the people to defeat the “sinister views” of a minority faction by “regular vote.”
Rather than suppress the “mischiefs of faction,” our system empowers them. Few Americans want the most permissive gun laws on offer. But those who do have captured the Republican Party and used its institutional advantages to both stop gun control and elevate an expansive and idiosyncratic view of gun rights to the level of constitutional law.
The result is a country so saturated in guns that there’s no real hope of going back to the status quo ante. If anything, American gun laws are poised to get even more permissive. If the Supreme Court rules as expected in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen, it will strike down a law that requires a license for carrying a concealed firearm.
Whether or not the public wants a world of ubiquitous firearms, the conservative majority on the court — which Americans have never voted for and which would not exist without the counter-majoritarian institutions that gave Donald Trump the White House and the Republican Party a Senate majority — seems ready to impose one.
Over the years, historians have been divided on the “slave power” thesis. Some have dismissed it, pointing to the lurid conspiracism of its most fringe proponents. Others have held it at arms length, treating it as an instance of the paranoid style in American politics. And still others have tried to steer a middle course of affirming the big picture while challenging the details.
The slaveholding South may not have been as politically unified as charged, but the institutions of American democracy were slanted toward slaveholders, who really did capture the state for their own ends. As much as possible, they used the power of the federal government to further their interests and stymie opposition, with the help of a like-minded majority on the Supreme Court that did not hesitate to act on their behalf.
What must be understood is that the institutions that enabled this subversion of self-government are still with us, a practically indissoluble part of our constitutional order. To say that it is possible for a narrow faction of ideologues to weaponize the counter-majoritarian features of our system against the “republican principle” is, basically, to describe the current state of our democracy. It is, in other words, to state the crisis.
By Phil Klay, May 27, 2022
Mr. Klay is a Marine Corps veteran and an author.
Death came via teddy bear. Specifically, a six-foot-tall plush panda bear, special ordered in 2017 by a Colombian gang leader known as Inglaterra. His girlfriend’s birthday was coming up; perhaps he wanted to surprise her with it. But the Colombian military got word of the order and tracked the bear to a luxurious farm near the Venezuelan border.
Inglaterra had been traveling by mule, draped in jewels and gold, wearing designer watches, rarely staying anywhere for more than a single night. When he arrived at the farm, 40 Colombian commandos quickly followed. Surprise.
I’d first heard the story when I was researching a novel about America’s long-running assistance with targeted killings in Colombia and a friend sent me a Colombian newspaper link. He asked me if I detected the hidden hand of America anywhere in Inglaterra’s death.
I thought of that story again this month, first when it was reported that the United States was helping Ukraine kill Russian generals, and again when The Times reported that the troops President Biden had ordered back into Somalia would help maintain an assassination program targeting a small cadre of Somali leaders. In both cases many details remain unclear, with much of the public knowledge coming from anonymous officials feeding information to newspapers rather than a public rollout of a new U.S. foreign policy.
One of the many strange things about being an American citizen these days is that there’s a whole lot of killing done in our name that our government deliberately keeps secret. Friends of mine, back from Iraq or Afghanistan, used to respond to people asking the inappropriate question veterans always get, “Did you kill anyone?” with the sharp-elbowed response, “If I did, you paid me to do it — ” a rough reminder of the link between the military and the citizens they represent. But back then, the actions of our military were much more visible. What does it mean to be a citizen of a state that kills for you but doesn’t tell you about it? Are you still responsible?
When I was a public affairs officer in the Marine Corps from 2005 to 2009, back during the era of massive antiwar protests, an activist group taking out a full-page ad in The New York Times to attack the credibility of a U.S. general led to spirited debates about everything from the morality of the war to the wisdom of its strategy. The main efforts of the American military in this period were conducted in the open, and my job entailed courting journalists to embed with our units to see what they were doing.
This relative openness meant the war provoked messy debate, political grandstanding, lies and hypocrisy and ill-informed analysis on cable news, and other byproducts of democracy. It also meant that the George W. Bush administration had to explain and defend its policies, which meant that I knew what we were supposed to be fighting for, what success was meant to look like, and why we were there. It meant political pressure brought to bear on U.S. policymaking to keep it tethered to the will of the American people.
But the nature of war shifted, for political and military reasons. One way of describing the change is to look at the pace of American Special Operations. In the spring of 2004 the Joint Special Operations Command was conducting about six operations a month in Iraq. By the summer of 2006 they were doing 300. This didn’t happen by sending the Navy SEALs to the gym to work on their run time, but by rehauling the whole process of finding targets, fixing them in place, finishing them, exploiting and analyzing the intelligence collected, and then disseminating that intelligence to the agencies and commands able to most rapidly act on it. It was this capability that former Secretary of Defense Bob Gates claimed in 2011 fused “intelligence and operations in a way that just, I think, is unique in anybody’s history.”
When Americans think about the killing we do overseas, we often think about the mechanism. A drone delivering a bomb strikes us as a bit creepy. A member of the Navy SEALs bursting into a bad guy’s compound strikes us as heroic. But the SEALs and the drone are just tools — the flat head and Phillips head screwdriver at the end of the targeting system. And the initial parts of that system can be offered to other countries, like Ukraine, which do the killing themselves. (In a press briefing on May 5, the Pentagon press secretary, John Kirby, distanced the United States only slightly from the killing of Russian generals: “We do not provide intelligence on the location of senior military leaders on the battlefield or participate in the targeting decisions of the Ukrainian military,” he said, but he freely admitted we provide Ukraine with relevant intelligence.)
What does this look like in practice? Thanks in part to reporting by The Washington Post’s Dana Priest, we can look to Colombia for several examples. Starting in 2007 we helped kill dozens of guerrilla commanders in Colombia’s long-running civil war. The C.I.A. trained Colombian close air support teams to use lasers to guide smart bombs to their targets, and trained interrogators to more effectively question subjects so that their information could be fed into an evolving database of information. The National Security Agency worked round the clock feeding data intercepts to ground forces.
In one instance, the F.B.I. and the Drug Enforcement Administration helped trace a satellite phone call between Hugo Chávez and a senior guerrilla leader. This intelligence was checked against information from a Colombian informant. The leader was located in a camp inside Ecuador. U.S. national security lawyers ruled the strike permissible as an act of self-defense. The U.S. provided the Colombians with smart bombs and the Colombians flew three light attack aircraft loaded with those smart bombs, followed by five planes loaded with conventional bombs. The bombs’ guidance system was turned on once they closed in on their target, and Colombians dropped first the smart bombs, and then the conventional bombs to cover their tracks. The decision to provide U.S. support, made and justified by officials and lawyers whose names we still don’t know, in a complex conflict most Americans have no idea the United States has been heavily involved in, set off a diplomatic crisis between Ecuador, Venezuela, and Colombia.
And since lethal precedents can outlast the causes for which they were enlisted, the aid to Colombia didn’t stop once the official war did. After the rebels signed a peace treaty in 2016, U.S. foreign aid continued to grow, now approaching half of a billion dollars a year. Instead of targeting guerrilla fighters as part of a continuing war, the Colombian military took over a police action against a large drug gang of which Inglaterra was a member, and at points the United States has provided real-time intelligence.
This style of warfare has always been secretive, involving as it does intelligence services and Special Operations units. But as America shifted from large deployments to more reliance on drones and airstrikes and special operators, that secretive side of warfare became a larger share of our global military presence. Then Donald Trump took office and, responding to a nation skeptical of our wars but still thrilled by the idea of targeted killings, he expanded the already ballooning Special Operations Command at a pace its former commander described as “frantic” — training forces in countries on Russia’s borders, policing weapons of mass destruction, combating the Taliban, Al Shabab, ISIS, and Al Qaeda while also rolling back transparency. Trump’s Department of Defense wouldn’t disclose troop numbers, details of airstrikes, or even give regular press briefings at the Pentagon. And as yet the Biden administration has not offered much more clarity on their counterterrorism policies either.
The rationale for keeping us in the dark is always national security concerns, and there are real risks. Revelations about targeting Russian generals might invite retaliation. Exposing granular detail on operations puts sources and methods in jeopardy. But secrecy also hides issues of public concern from public scrutiny.
As for President Biden’s plans for American forces in Somalia, it’s not clear why the administration thinks Al Shabab, which doesn’t operate much outside the Horn of Africa, represents a threat to the United States. It’s not clear how this operation fits into our larger counterterrorism strategy, what the legal rationale is for conducting targeted killings, and what rules will govern the strikes.
This last piece is particularly important. The recent Pulitzer Prizing-winning journalism led by Azmat Khan has shown that U.S. government reports on our strikes routinely failed to detect civilian casualties, investigate on the ground, identify causes of errors in targeting, or discipline anyone for wrongdoing. These failures have consequences: a father watching the headless corpse of his 14-month-old daughter, nestled in her dead mother’s arms, lifted from the ruins of his home. An extended family of 21 people turned into “just pieces of meat.” The current level of secrecy practiced by the U.S. military demands a level of trust that is unearned. The victims of these strikes demand our skepticism.
When our president declares, as Mr. Biden did to the United Nations in September, “I stand here today for the first time in 20 years with the United States not at war,” it’s not just a pleasant falsehood it’d be pretty to believe. It’s something more corrosive.
War — the killing of other people on our behalf, as citizens — is the most morally consequential thing a nation can do. As Americans, we should take that responsibility seriously. Congress should debate it, and Americans should as well. None of that can happen if year after year, lethal strike after lethal strike, the needs of national security are invoked to hide it from view.
Every April we pay our taxes, and if there are men and women out there who we’re paying to kill people, we should know.
By Farhad Manjoo, May 26, 2022https://www.nytimes.com/2022/05/26/opinion/covid-variants-summer.html
Johannes Eisele/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
There are days, now, when you can almost forget about the virus. Hundreds of thousands of people around the world are still being infected with Covid-19 daily — an average of about 361 Americans died from it every day in the last week — but after more than two years and millions of lost lives, the pandemic has given way in headlines and breaking-news crawls to older and more familiar atrocities.
Across much of the United States the rhythms of life have returned to something like their prepandemic tempo. Bars and restaurants are packed, there’s a wedding boom, and Memorial Day weekend looks likely to kick off a busy summer travel season.
But remember how giddy we all were for a virus-free summer last year? It was in May 2021 that officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advised that Americans who had been vaccinated could take off their masks and forget about social distancing in most settings. Then, during a successful campaign to vaccinate millions of Americans, the White House began preparing a Fourth of July bash to declare a “summer of freedom” from the virus.
You know how that turned out. America’s vaccination rate was too low, and just when we thought we’d licked it, Covid wriggled free. First the Delta variant spread widely, then Omicron and its many subvariants. Masks were ordered back on. Boosters were soon recommended for people over 12. And in the year since what was once billed “hot vax summer,” about 400,000 more Americans died from Covid-19.
This is not a column about the dangers of prematurely declaring victory against the pandemic. Few American health officials are urging anything but caution and vigilance now.
But last summer’s rapid Covid turnabout does illustrate a dynamic that I worry we have yet to internalize: Any peace we’ve reached with the virus may be only a temporary, uneasy one. It seems likely that, at least for the foreseeable future, our lives may continue to be upended by the whims of this wily, unpredictable virus, until we can advance against it.
And it isn’t just our health that’s at stake. I worry that Covid’s very unpredictability could inject volatility into global affairs. It’s been remarkable to watch how the zigs and zags of the pandemic era have confounded not just public health officials and the Biden administration, but also the Federal Reserve, the Chinese government, hedge funds and some of the world’s largest businesses.
How can humanity effectively plan for the future if the virus keeps pulling the rug out from under us? From the beginning of the pandemic we’ve heard about adjusting to a “new normal,” but Covid’s malleability suggests it may not be just one new normal we’ll have to get used to. And as long as the virus keeps swerving in unpredictable directions, it may continue to rock our politics, shock our economy and hinder our ability to work collectively to address every other major problem humanity faces, especially global threats like climate change.
The basic problem is that especially since the emergence of the Omicron variant, it has become painfully clear that while vaccines prevent severe illness and death, research shows that even vaccinated people can keep getting sick from Covid-19. The elderly, unvaccinated, immunocompromised and others at high risk may continue to face greater danger.
Even though far fewer people are becoming seriously ill from the virus than at its peak, consider the level of disruption to daily life that we may continue to face — the labor shortages brought on by sickness, burnout and overwork, the toll of stress and psychological fatigue on a population that has had little respite from the ever-present danger of disease.
And because the effects of the virus will play out in different ways in different parts of the world, the disruptions could ripple erratically across the globe. China’s troubled zero-tolerance approach to fighting Covid has snarled ports in Europe and the United States and forced some carmakers to suspend production.
Of course, it isn’t just the virus that has undermined global stability. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and extreme weather exacerbated by climate change are also roiling the world’s economy.
But look at just about any economic story these days and you’ll see the pandemic playing some mischief. Robert Califf, the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, told a House panel this week that a Covid-19 outbreak caused a delay in the agency’s inspection of the Abbott Nutrition plant implicated in the national shortage of baby formula. Another lapse was “likely due to Covid-19 staffing issues” in the F.D.A. mailroom, Califf wrote.
Eventually the world will adapt to Covid’s tricks. Nasal vaccines that are now in clinical trials may be able to curb transmission of the virus, which could deal a blow to Covid’s many variants. Wider access to therapeutic drugs could make catching Covid less risky and disruptive. And after a few years perhaps the virus’s waves may settle into a seasonal pattern that we could adapt to living with.
Over the next few years, though, we may be in for a bumpy Covid ride. New variants have proven more contagious. People are burned out on doing much to avoid it. And we have no idea what the next variant may unleash upon a world already thoroughly pummeled by the disease.
In response to pesticides, many cockroach females have lost their taste for sweet stuff, which changes how they make the next generation of insects.
By Jason Bittel, May 27, 2022
A male cockroach, right, attracting a female cockroach with a fat-and-sugar mix extruded from the tergal gland. Some female cockroaches are becoming immune to this practice. Credit...Ayako Wada-Katsumada
When a male cockroach wants to mate with a female cockroach very much, he will scoot his butt toward her, open his wings and offer her a homemade meal — sugars and fats squished out of his tergal gland. As the lovely lady nibbles, the male locks onto her with one penis while another penis delivers a sperm package.
If everything goes smoothly, a roach’s romp can last around 90 minutes. But increasingly, cockroach coitus is going really, weirdly wrong, and is contributing to roach populations in some places that are more difficult to vanquish with conventional pesticides.
Back in 1993, scientists working at North Carolina State University discovered a trait in the German cockroach, a species that inhabits every continent except Antarctica. Specifically, these new cockroaches seemed to have no affection for a form of sugar called glucose, which was strange because — as anyone who has ever battled against a cockroach infestation knows — cockroaches normally cannot get enough of the sweet stuff.
So, where did these new, health-conscious cockroaches come from?
It seems we created them by accident, after decades of trying to kill their ancestors with sweet powders and liquids laced with poison. The cockroaches that craved sweets ate the poison and died, while cockroaches less keen on glucose avoided the death traps and survived long enough to breed, thus passing that trait down to the next cockroach generation.
“When we think of evolution, we usually imagine wild animals, but actually, it’s also happening with small animals living in our kitchens,” said Ayako Wada-Katsumata, an entomologist at North Carolina State University.
Dr. Wada-Katsumata and her colleagues have just introduced yet another wrinkle to the cockroach’s story: According to a study published this month in the journal Communications Biology, the same trait that might help a female cockroach avoid sweet-tasting poison baits also makes her less likely to stick around and mate with normal cockroach males.
This is because cockroach saliva is capable of rapidly breaking down complex sugars, like those found in the male’s courtship offering, and turning them into simple sugars, such as glucose. So when one of these glucose-averse females takes a bite of the male’s nuptial gift, it literally turns bitter in her mouth, and she bolts before he can complete the double barrel lock-and-pop maneuver.
“Great!” you may be thinking. “The fewer cockroach hookups, the fewer infestations we’ll have.” Not so fast, said the researchers.
“As to how this will affect the population, it’s really complicated,” said Dr. Wada-Katsumata.
That’s because, despite the hang-ups, glucose-averse cockroaches still find ways to do the deed.
In lab experiments, Dr. Wada-Katsumata and her colleagues showed that glucose-averse females are more skittish of males than wild-type cockroaches, which is what the researchers call the roaches without glucose aversion. However, they also found that glucose-averse males seem to compensate for this by more rapidly transitioning into sex after offering his gift.
“The glucose-averse females might spend, say, three seconds feeding on the male’s secretion,” said Coby Schal, distinguished professor of entomology at North Carolina State and an author of the study. “The wild-type male does not respond in three seconds. The glucose-averse male does.”
The researchers even have evidence that suggests that all of these new pressures are causing changes in the chemistry of the glucose-averse male’s nuptial gift potentially so he can continue attracting females.
From a scientific perspective, the German cockroach’s sugar saga shows how humans can drive both natural selection — the cockroaches that survive our poison traps — as well as sexual selection — the glucose-averse cockroaches who no longer want to mate with cockroaches that still offer sweet snacks.
“I think that’s what makes this so compelling,” Dr. Schal said. “The idea that humans impose very strong selection on animals around us, especially inside our home, and that the animals respond not only with physiological changes, but also with behavioral changes.”
The good news for consumers is that pesticide manufacturers share Dr. Wada-Katsumata and Dr. Schal’s enthusiasm for understanding cockroach evolution, and they are actively changing their cockroach-killing formulations to move away from glucose. But given how new this research is, it will take some time for those changes to make their way to the products on our shelves.
“The worst thing that you can have as a product is a bait that is not eaten by cockroaches,” said Dr. Schal.