The Rock, Bernal Hill, San Francisco
Olivia Rodrigo - F*** You (feat. Lily Allen) (Glastonbury 2022)
With Olivia Rodrigo and Lily Allen
[Verse 1: Lily Allen]
Look inside, look inside your tiny mind
Then look a bit harder
'Cause we're so uninspired, so sick and tired
Of all the hatred you harbour
So you say it's not okay to be gay
Well, I think you're just evil
You're just some racist who can't tie my laces
Your point of view is medieval
[Chorus: Lily Allen]
Fuck you, fuck you very, very much
'Cause we hate what you do
And we hate your whole crew
So please, don't stay in touch
Fuck you, fuck you very, very much
'Cause your words don't translate
And it's getting quite late
So please, don't stay in touch
[Verse 2: Olivia Rodrigo, Lily Allen & Olivia Rodrigo]
Do you get, do you get a little kick out of being small minded?
You want to be like your father, it's approval you're after
Well, that's not how you find it
Do you, do you really enjoy living a life that's so hateful?
'Cause there's a hole where your soul should be
You're losing control of it
And it's really distasteful
[Chorus: Olivia Rodrigo, Lily Allen & Olivia Rodrigo]
Fuck you, fuck you very, very much
'Cause we hate what you do
And we hate your whole crew
So please, don't stay in touch
Fuck you, fuck you very, very much
'Cause your words don't translate
And it's getting quite late
So please, don't stay in touch
Fuck you, fuck you, fuck you
Fuck you, fuck you, fuck you
[Verse 3: Lily Allen]
You say you think we need to go to war
Well, you're already in one
'Cause it's people like you that need to get slew
No one wants your opinion
Doctors for Assange Statement
Doctors to UK: Assange Extradition
‘Medically & Ethically’ Wrong
Ahead of the U.K. Home Secretary’s decision on whether to extradite Julian Assange to the United States, a group of more than 300 doctors representing 35 countries have told Priti Patel that approving his extradition would be “medically and ethically unacceptable”.
In an open letter sent to the Home Secretary on Friday June 10, and copied to British Prime Minster Boris Johnson, the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice Robert Buckland, the Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and the Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong, the doctors draw attention to the fact that Assange suffered a “mini stroke” in October 2021. They note:
“Predictably, Mr Assange’s health has since continued to deteriorate in your custody. In October 2021 Mr. Assange suffered a ‘mini-stroke’… This dramatic deterioration of Mr Assange’s health has not yet been considered in his extradition proceedings. The US assurances accepted by the High Court, therefore, which would form the basis of any extradition approval, are founded upon outdated medical information, rendering them obsolete.”
The doctors charge that any extradition under these circumstances would constitute negligence. They write:
“Under conditions in which the UK legal system has failed to take Mr Assange’s current health status into account, no valid decision regarding his extradition may be made, by yourself or anyone else. Should he come to harm in the US under these circumstances it is you, Home Secretary, who will be left holding the responsibility for that negligent outcome.”
In their letter the group reminds the Home Secretary that they first wrote to her on Friday 22 November 2019, expressing their serious concerns about Julian Assange’s deteriorating health.
Those concerns were subsequently borne out by the testimony of expert witnesses in court during Assange’s extradition proceedings, which led to the denial of his extradition by the original judge on health grounds. That decision was later overturned by a higher court, which referred the decision to Priti Patel in light of US assurances that Julian Assange would not be treated inhumanely.
The doctors write:
“The subsequent ‘assurances’ of the United States government, that Mr Assange would not be treated inhumanly, are worthless given their record of pursuit, persecution and plotted murder of Mr Assange in retaliation for his public interest journalism.”
“Home Secretary, in making your decision as to extradition, do not make yourself, your government, and your country complicit in the slow-motion execution of this award-winning journalist, arguably the foremost publisher of our time. Do not extradite Julian Assange; free him.”
Julian Assange remains in High Security Belmarsh Prison awaiting Priti Patel’s decision, which is due any day.
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.
Recently I’ve started working with the Coalition to Free Ruchell Magee. On March 17, Ruchell turned 83. He’s been imprisoned for 59 years, and now walks with a walker. He is no threat to society if released. Ruchell was in the Marin County Courthouse on August 7, 1970, the morning Jonathan Jackson took it over in an effort to free his older brother, the internationally known revolutionary prison writer, George Jackson. Ruchell joined Jonathan and was the only survivor of the shooting that ensued. He has been locked up ever since and denied parole 13 times. On March 19, the Coalition to Free Ruchell Magee held a webinar for Ruchell for his 83rd birthday, which was a terrific event full of information and plans for building the campaign to Free Ruchell. (For information about his case, please visit: www.freeruchellmagee.org.)
Below are two ways to stream this historic webinar, plus
• a petition you can sign
• a portal to send a letter to Governor Newsom
• a Donate button to support his campaign
• a link to our campaign website.
Please take a moment and help.
Note: We will soon have t-shirts to sell to raise money for legal expenses.
Here is the YouTube link to view the March 19 Webinar:
Here is the Facebook link:
Sign the petition to Free Ruchell:
Write to Governor Newsom’s office:
No one ever hurt their eyes by looking on the bright side
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.
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”
By Margaret Atwood*
The moment when, after many years
of hard work and a long voyage
you stand in the centre of your room,
house, half-acre, square mile, island, country,
knowing at last how you got there,
and say, I own this,
is the same moment when the trees unloose
their soft arms from around you,
the birds take back their language,
the cliffs fissure and collapse,
the air moves back from you like a wave
and you can't breathe.
No, they whisper. You own nothing.
You were a visitor, time after time
climbing the hill, planting the flag, proclaiming.
We never belonged to you.
You never found us.
It was always the other way round.
*Witten by the woman who wrote a novel about Christian fascists taking over the U.S. and enslaving women. Prescient!
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.
If you are contacted by federal law enforcement you should exercise all of your rights. It is always advisable to speak to an attorney before responding to federal authorities.
State and Local Hotlines
If you have been contacted by the FBI or other federal law enforcement, in one of the following areas, you may be able to get help or information from one of these local NLG hotlines for:
If you are located in an area with no hotline, you can call the following number:
Know Your Rights Materials
The NLG maintains a library of basic Know-Your-Rights guides.
WEBINAR: Federal Repression of Activists & Their Lawyers: Legal & Ethical Strategies to Defend Our Movements: presented by NLG-NYC and NLG National Office
We also recommend the following resources:
Movement for Black Lives Legal Resources
By Tom Whitney, July 7, 2022
Image by Ricardo IV Tamayo.
Friends of socialist Cuba like good news about that country. Now bad news has its use. Grief and hardship currently are such that, clearly, the U.S. economic blockade of Cuba must end at once. The harsh details, appearing below, testify to potential destabilization in Cuba, danger to Cuba’s socialist project, and the nefarious role of the blockade. A major mobilization against the blockade is due. The need for action is obvious.
The blockade, a 60-year-old relic of history, places few heavy demands on the U.S. public. No governmental funding is required. The Treasury Department issues fines and presidents make ritualistic declarations. People dodge travel restrictions. It’s a slow-motion affair. Distracted pro-Cuba activists may lose track of harassment details. Here they get a refresher course, for motivation toward action. It emphasizes blockade effects on people’s lives.
In the Beginning
Cuba’s vulnerability is the result mainly of U.S. policies directed at “denying money and supplies to Cuba … to bring about hunger, desperation, and overthrow of government.” The words are those of a State Department memorandum of April 6, 1960.
The flow of money to Cuba – international loans and export income –has long been feeble. International banks, financial institutions, and corporations handling dollars on Cuba’s behalf risk big U.S. Treasury Department fines. U.S. legislation blocks Cuba from importing the products of multi-national companies with branches in the United States – even food and medical supplies. For almost 30 years third-country ships docking in Cuba have been prohibited from entering a U.S. port for the following six months. Since 2019 the U.S. government has sanctioned Venezuelan ships carrying oil to Cuba.
The U.S. government harasses Cuba’s tourism industry, the source of most of Cuba’s foreign currency. Restrictions, variably regulated, operate against U.S citizens’ travel to the island. Why? They would spend money there. To discourage potential investors, U.S. legislation enables the heirs of properties nationalized in Cuba to take legal action in U.S. courts against investors who make use of such properties.
Cuba’s commerce with the United States has been nil for 60 years, except for heavily regulated Cuban agricultural exports. The northern neighbor used to be and still could be Cuba’s most convenient trading partner.
People are hurting
The U.S. blockade constitutes the main impediment to Cuba’s industrial production and overall economic development. Soviet Bloc nations formerly provided relief. Since then, strictures placed on imports have caused shortages of raw materials, replacement parts, consumer goods, new tools and machines, and reagents for drug and vaccine manufacture.
The blockade recently has complicated lives already beleaguered by the Covid-19 pandemic and an 11 percent economic recession resulting from the pandemic.
An Associated Press report of June 22 highlights a lack of new housing and impediments to repairing houses. In 2019, 44,000 homes were built, in 2000, 32,000 homes, and in 2021,18,000. Building materials are in short supply. Hurricanes and the pandemic aggravated the situation.
Elderly Cubans experienced isolation and lack of supplies during the pandemic. For two years they’ve experienced weakened cultural and support services and reduced housing options. Fuel shortages in late 2021 led to fewer bus-runs in Havana. Wait-times were even longer. Pharmacies in 2020 had available only 35 percent of their normal stock.
In recent times, infant death rates in Cuba matched the favorable rates of well-resourced countries, and were lower than U.S. rates. Astoundingly, Cuba’s infant mortality rate in 2021 was 7.6 infant deaths per 1000 births, up from 4.9 in 2000 and 5.0 in 2019. Cuba’s 2021 rate of mothers dying from pregnancy and childbirth difficulties was 176.6 – out of 100,000 mothers giving birth – up from 40.0 mothers in 2000 and 37.4 in 2019.
The increases stem from Covid-19 infection mortality added to deaths in non-Covid times. Experts say the deaths of children and mothers can reflect social factors – mothers’ low educational levels, reduced access to healthcare and other services, and poor nutrition. Therefore, the U.S. blockade, which does affect social well-being, may have taken a toll in this area too.
Cuba’s food supply is unstable what with reduced food production, inefficient distribution, marketing based on income levels, and quality variations. At an annual cost of $2 billion, Cuba’s government still must import 60-70 percent of the food consumed in Cuba.
Production levels remain low despite reforms introduced after 2008, among them: land distribution, allowances for farmers’ permanent use of land, marketing reforms, governmental assistance to individual farmers and agricultural cooperatives, new distribution systems, local decision-making on assistance and policies, and ecologically sustainable methods.
The U.S. economic blockade is not responsible for soil deficiencies, officials’ inaction, drought conditions, overgrowth of invasive plants, and the appeal of urban life for rural youth. Blockade effects do show up in farmers’ reduced access to credit and lack of funds for fertilizer, seeds, breeding stock, spare parts, new equipment, and fuel.
Inflation holds sway in Cuba now. Prices, rising for two years, are up now by 70 percent and more. Access to essential goods is impaired. Frustration at high prices and shortages helped trigger island-wide protests on July 11, 2021 and has contributed to record emigration.
The U.S. blockade set the stage for inflation. After losing its commercial partnership with the Soviet Bloc, which disappeared in 1991, Cuba was in trouble. The blockade blocked access to international loans and interfered with income derived from exports, the latter effect stemming from export restrictions. Consequently, funds have been short for importing essential products and for developing the economy.
Cuba desperately needed foreign currency and therefore brought tourists to the island to spend money that would end up with the government. From 1993 on, their money was captured via a new currency called the Cuban convertible peso (CUC). Tourists surrendered their own currencies in exchange for the CUCs.
Cubans, not all of them, acquired CUCs and were able to buy goods and dollars unavailable to Cubans without CUCs. Inequalities emerged. Responding, the government gradually withdrew CUCs from circulation, beginning in January 2021. Anticipating hardships, it raised salaries and pensions payable in Cuba’s “national peso.”
New money in circulation stimulates inflation, especially when goods for sale are in short supply, as in Cuba. The national currency lost value. Tourists, excluded during the pandemic, returned in late 2021. Their money, circulating, added to inflationary pressures. CUCs with a prominent role in Cuba’s informal economy, and still circulating, did likewise. The role of CUCs suggests the blockade’s indirect contribution to inflation.
Those defenders of Cuba worried about diminished Cuban-government commitment to bettering people’s lives may need reassurance. Of note:
* Cuban president Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez on June 21 addressed a meeting which elevated the role of social work. Discussion centered on mothers living in cities in “situations of vulnerability.”
* Support programs are in place for elderly Cubans experiencing isolation, for example, the “Accompany Me (Acompáñame) project of telephone assistance and the National Program for Comprehensive Attention to Elders.
* As of 2021, 423 so-called Projects of Local Development promoted food production, small workplaces, and tourism along with socio-cultural, environmental, and research programs.
* The government promotes its program known as “micro, small, and medium [size] businesses.” These mostly privately owned enterprises, numbering 1,188 last year, produce food products, building materials, furniture, textile products, footwear, cleaning supplies, computer accessories, recycling serves, and more.
* The government in April 2021 approved 43 measures directed at increased agricultural production and food availability. Results are far from ideal, an observer notes.
* Prime Minister Manuel Marrero Cruz, on June 24 visited a district in Cardenas to assess progress toward “improvements of roads, water supply, housing construction and social work.”
What to do
Resistance to the U.S. blockade within the United States has been constant for decades, but to no avail. Thanks to the Helms-Burton Law of 1996, the hurdle now is forcing the Congress to act. For that to happen, masses of people must stand up together and weigh in.
But that won’t happen, it seems, as long as activists continue to view the blockade as an isolated issue. What’s needed is collective action on many issues toward changing the direction of the U.S. government itself. The common ground would be justice and decent lives for all people everywhere, Cubans among them.
Also required would be new understanding that U.S. assault on Cuba happens as part of the larger U.S. project of capitalism worldwide and imperialist domination. The big mobilization to end the blockade would be part of a larger mission to take apart that U.S. project. Oppressed and plundered nations would be rescued, Cuba among them.
One adjustment: U.S. progressives ought to reject that old dictum that “Politics stops at the water’s edge.” It sends the message that solidarity with and struggle for oppressed peoples overseas doesn’t matter. That’s not so.
By no means will these suggestions bear fruit in time to end the blockade soon. Hope and struggle will remain. U.S. public opinion favors ending the blockade. People in the United States now fighting the blockade are experienced and want to enlarge the movement. Maybe chaos attending capitalism’s failures, new wars, and international divisions will distract the U.S. government from bothering with Cuba. Maybe international solidarity with Cuba will continue growing. Revolutionary Cuba, with unity and effective leadership, is known for overcoming challenges.
Former students say military veterans who led J.R.O.T.C. classes in U.S. high schools fashioned themselves as mentors, then used their power to manipulate and abuse.
By Mike Baker, Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs and Ilana MarcusPhotographs by Mary F. Calvert, July 9, 2022https://www.nytimes.com/2022/07/09/us/sexual-abuse-jrotc.html
A text message exchange between Ms. Bauer and Steve Hardin, her J.R.O.T.C. instructor.
PICAYUNE, Miss. — With the rifle skills she honed in the Mississippi backwoods, Victoria Bauer had a path to escape the trap of drugs and dead-end jobs she saw most everywhere around her. Her future was in the Marines, she decided, and she had an idea about how to get there.
Across the way from her freshman algebra class, Ms. Bauer approached Steve Hardin, the retired Navy intelligence officer who guided the high school’s Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, a leadership program sponsored by the U.S. military at high schools across the country. He welcomed her into the fold, she said, and seemed interested in how her family, which traced roots back to the Four Winds Cherokee of Louisiana, had been displaced by Hurricane Katrina.
Soon, her 45-year-old J.R.O.T.C. instructor was messaging her on Snapchat late into the night, telling her that it would “drive the guys crazy” if she wore a “small bikini” during the trip to their next out-of-state shooting competition. Then one night in 2015 as he drove her home from rifle practice, she told investigators, Mr. Hardin pushed his hand into her pants and penetrated her with his fingers — the start of what she said was months of sexual assaults. Ms. Bauer, who was 15 at the time, feared that resisting him would jeopardize her shot at advancement through the J.R.O.T.C. ranks or a military career.
“I gave all the body-language signals that I didn’t want it,” Ms. Bauer said in an interview. “I didn’t feel like I had a choice.”
For more than a century, the J.R.O.T.C. program has sought to instill U.S. military values in American teenagers, with classes in thousands of public high schools that provide training in marksmanship, life skills, hierarchical discipline and military history. School officials endorse the classes, typically offered as electives during the regular school day, as a way to galvanize students who are struggling with direction and motivation.
But a New York Times investigation — which included an examination of thousands of court documents, investigative files and other records obtained through more than 150 public disclosure requests — has found that the program has repeatedly become a place where retired military officers prey on their teenage students.
In the past five years, The Times found, at least 33 J.R.O.T.C. instructors have been criminally charged with sexual misconduct involving students, far higher than the rate of civilian high school teachers in jurisdictions examined by The Times. Many others have been accused of misconduct but never charged.
The senior military veterans who make up the J.R.O.T.C. ranks are certified by the military but deploy to high school classrooms with little oversight and scant training for the actual work of being a teacher. Many states do not require J.R.O.T.C. instructors to have a college degree or a teaching certificate. Schools are expected to monitor the instructors and investigate complaints, but they have struggled to adequately oversee a program that largely operates on the fringes of their campuses.
Victims have reported sexual assaults in classrooms and supply closets, during field trips or on late-night rides home, sometimes committed after instructors plied students with alcohol or drugs. One former student said her instructor told her that sexual submission was expected of women in the military. A recent cadet in Tennessee said her J.R.O.T.C. instructor warned that he had the skills to kill her without a trace if she told anyone about their sexual encounters. In Missouri, a student said she was forced to kneel at her instructor’s bedside, blindfolded, with a gun to her head.
The Times interviewed 13 victims, many of whom had strikingly similar stories: They were teenagers who came from disadvantaged backgrounds or who otherwise saw the military as a pathway to a promising future, then found that the instructors who fashioned themselves as mentors exploited their positions to manipulate and abuse.
J.R.O.T.C. leaders declined requests for interviews but pointed to research indicating that the program had a positive effect on school attendance and graduation rates. The U.S. Army Cadet Command, which sponsors the largest J.R.O.T.C. program, said in a statement that its instructors went through a “strenuous” vetting process and that any allegations of misconduct were investigated, typically by the school districts that hired the J.R.O.T.C. instructors as civilian employees.
Founded during World War I, the J.R.O.T.C. program has grown to serve a half-million teenagers each year in classes aimed at promoting civic responsibility, leadership and skills such as handling a weapon. Its instructors are retired officers or noncommissioned officers, often holding medals from decades of military service.
For the military, which has struggled to meet its recruiting goals in an all-volunteer Army, J.R.O.T.C. has also been seen as a potentially important recruiting tool; students from high schools with J.R.O.T.C. programs are more than twice as likely to enlist after graduation, according to the Army Cadet Command.
The program targets schools with high populations of low-income students. Across the country, majority-minority schools are nearly three times as likely as majority-white schools to have a J.R.O.T.C. program, according to a Times analysis.
The nature of the program offers instructors an unusual level of access to the children they mentor, according to interviews with former students and instructors. It often operates with its own classrooms and facilities, and students frequently are asked to participate in after-school, weekend and out-of-state activities, where instructors sometimes violate district rules by communicating with students on personal cellphones or driving them in their own vehicles.
The weak oversight has allowed some instructors to engage in repeated misconduct. At least seven of those who have been criminally charged had already been flagged for previous allegations of misconduct but were allowed to stay on the job.
Many of the instructors charged with sexual misconduct have pleaded guilty, although Mr. Hardin contested the sexual battery charges against him and eventually entered a no-contest plea to an unrelated charge that did not involve sexual misconduct but effectively barred him from working as a teacher. None of the instructors connected with the abuse described in this article or their lawyers agreed to be interviewed.
“There’s so much faith and confidence and trust that goes into these instructor positions,” said Joe Williams, a former Marine gunnery sergeant who worked as a J.R.O.T.C. instructor in Mississippi and Kansas for six years, and who was the first to raise concerns about Mr. Hardin with school administrators. “We’ve got these individuals who use that trust as a cloak.”
‘I felt trapped’
When she came forward with allegations against her Air Force J.R.O.T.C. instructor in Charlotte, N.C., Dominique Mixon wondered whether anyone would believe her.
The instructor, Brad Gibson, had a catalog of medals and ribbons earned over 24 years of service. After retiring from active duty, he was hired to lead the military program at his alma mater, Independence High School — “Home of the Patriots.”
Ms. Mixon had joined J.R.O.T.C. as a freshman, hoping to go all four years and pursue a possible career in the Air Force. Mr. Gibson, then 44, had at first been a friendly mentor, but at times became flirtatious, Ms. Mixon told investigators in 2010.
Then, as she was working on an assignment alone at the back of the J.R.O.T.C. complex one day, she said, he came up next to her and began rubbing her thigh. He next moved his hand up her shirt, kissed her neck and licked her ears, Ms. Mixon reported. He told her he had been having “nasty” thoughts about her, she said.
She reported the incident within days to a teacher, who referred her to a campus police officer. But her report went nowhere.
A school administrator told police investigators that Mr. Gibson had previously been counseled for “borderline inappropriate behavior with his female students,” records say, but he was allowed to continue leading the J.R.O.T.C. program.
It was Ms. Mixon who was pushed out of the program. She recalled being forced to sit alone in an office during fourth period, rather than attend her J.R.O.T.C. class.
“I felt trapped,” Ms. Mixon said. “I felt alone in a corner. I felt like it was just me, myself and I.”
That spring, she said, Mr. Gibson chaperoned her prom.
Eight years later, long after she had graduated, Ms. Mixon got a call from a Charlotte police officer: A 16-year-old student had filed a new report about Mr. Gibson.
It was a familiar story: Mr. Gibson, the girl reported to the police, had at first offered friendly hugs and made comments about her looks; then, when they were alone in a room one day during her sophomore year, he put his hand up her shirt. Another time, she told the police, he told her he had been thinking about her when he masturbated. The groping, she said, persisted for months.
The 2018 allegations led the authorities to reopen Ms. Mixon’s case. Two years ago, Mr. Gibson pleaded guilty to indecent liberties with both girls. He was sentenced to five years of probation and required to register as a sex offender.
The school district declined to comment about the case, citing personnel confidentiality. Mr. Gibson did not respond to a message seeking comment.
Records released under public disclosure laws show cases across the country in which J.R.O.T.C. instructors who wound up being criminally charged had been the subject of complaints from students in the past, including in Chicago, Casa Grande, Ariz., and Mandeville, La. In the Louisiana case, court and deposition transcripts show, school officials reported that they had initially vetted an anonymous complaint of potential sexual abuse, in part by consulting the instructor’s J.R.O.T.C. superior, who vouched that the allegations were implausible because the instructor was “a full-tilt Marine.”
Months later, Capt. Kevin Covert, a police investigator in Mandeville, reviewed text messages exchanged between students and the instructor, Hosea McGhee, and concluded that the 48-year-old instructor had been abusing not just one, but two students, sometimes several times a day throughout school hours. In a deposition, Captain Covert said he was left wondering how the abuse could have been going on so blatantly with school administrators seemingly unaware.
“These girls would leave class and go be with him in the R.O.T.C. room,” he said. “Which begged the question for me: How are more people not seeing this?”
Mr. McGhee pleaded guilty to charges of molestation and solicitation for his conduct with the two girls and was sentenced to five years in prison.
In the case of Ms. Bauer in Mississippi, other concerns about Mr. Hardin’s conduct had emerged months before she came forward.
Mr. Williams, the J.R.O.T.C. instructor who reported him, recalled in an interview that Mr. Hardin had made a lewd comment to him about a student in a bikini. Then, when some students came to him with a report that they had seen several concerning text messages that Mr. Hardin had sent to a female student, Mr. Williams said, he brought the issue to school administrators.
But he said he faced intense blowback. One of the longtime leaders in the school’s J.R.O.T.C. program, he recalled, accused him of failing to follow the chain of command by going to administrators instead of trying to resolve the complaints with Mr. Hardin directly.
School officials did not respond to requests to discuss the case. But court records show that a police investigation ensued. Ms. Bauer initially defended him, saying in a recent interview that she did not disclose her encounters with Mr. Hardin at the time because she feared she would be ostracized.
Mr. Hardin was not charged at the time, and wound up applying for a new role at a J.R.O.T.C. program two hours away from Picayune.
He got the job.
A source of pride, but no oversight
J.R.O.T.C. classes are built around military-style discipline, typically starting with the Pledge of Allegiance. Students learn public speaking, a U.S. military view of world history and how to march in formation. On designated days, cadets dress in service uniforms, and when visitors come to class, the students stand at attention.
The military provides instructors with training in ethics and the J.R.O.T.C. curriculum, then certifies them to be hired by school districts. Part of their pay is reimbursed by the military, which conducts annual reviews of school J.R.O.T.C. programs, usually looking at such things as the effectiveness of programs and the condition of facilities.
James Boyer, a retired Navy captain who led the J.R.O.T.C. program at a high school north of Houston for nearly two decades, said many instructors became father figures for students, helping them apply for scholarships and get jobs, or pushing them to improve their grades. He recalled speaking to car dealerships to help one of his students get a job after she showed an interest in cars. Sometimes, he said, a student who had a chaotic home life would do homework for another class in his office.
“The instructors generally are different than your standard teachers,” Mr. Boyer said. “They may be fantastic and they may be not — everywhere you go there’s a bad apple doing something stupid — but for the most part they’re getting to know these kids in a way that the vast majority of other teachers are not.”
For a position that provides them an unusual level of access to students, J.R.O.T.C. instructors have minimal training obligations. Mr. Williams described going through a two-week military training course in California to become a qualified instructor, with much of the time focused on the administrative functions of the job, such as how to balance the books and order supplies, and only a brief discussion of teacher-student boundaries.
“I still remember what the instructor said. He’s like: ‘You can’t fall in love with a 15-year-old,’” Mr. Williams said.
Many states allow J.R.O.T.C. instructors to get a license with little more than a high school diploma. Sixteen states, The Times found, do not require them to have state certification at all, including Florida, which has more J.R.O.T.C. programs than any other state but Texas.
The military gives a seal of approval to each instructor but takes a largely hands-off approach to oversight, leaving school districts to watch for any problems.
Veronica Garcia, the former superintendent of schools in Santa Fe, N.M., said the program could be difficult for schools to fully monitor, with students doing J.R.O.T.C. activities before or after school, and often traveling to competitions with their instructors outside of school hours.
In 2019, three students came forward to law enforcement to complain about inappropriate comments and touches from Dale Mayes, a J.R.O.T.C. instructor in Ms. Garcia’s district who had previously spent more than 30 years in the Navy. District records show that school officials did their own internal review, finding the allegations to be credible and contacting the state Public Education Department, which certifies teachers and investigates misconduct.
But the state said it had no jurisdiction to intervene because New Mexico did not license J.R.O.T.C. instructors.
Ms. Garcia told the state agency that this had created a “troubling loophole,” according to correspondence released under the state public records act.
Mr. Mayes, who declined to comment for this article, was charged with one count of criminal sexual misconduct with a minor, though his lawyer told the court that the instructor had “a strong case for innocence.” The case was later dropped, with prosecutors saying there was insufficient evidence to pursue the case.
The school district, on the other hand, ultimately averted a lawsuit by agreeing to pay about half a million dollars to three students who said Mr. Mayes acted improperly.
Obedience comes first
In J.R.O.T.C. classrooms, instructors are not just teachers. They are superior officers, and students are taught to follow the chain of command.
“Obedience is the first lesson every military person must learn,” one of the program’s textbooks says.
Abuse victims said the power dynamics in the program made it more difficult to resist sexual assaults.
One of them, Jordan Leloup, came from a troubled childhood of poverty and drugs in Tennessee and no longer had a relationship with her parents. She said she yearned for something akin to “family.”
When the J.R.O.T.C. instructor, Michael Bass, approached her one day during the 2013-14 school year about joining the program at Hendersonville High School, she said, he had an appealing sales pitch. “We are like family,” he told her.
After she joined, Mr. Bass, who was 44, invited her for dinners at his home, where she would socialize with his wife and children. Then one night, she said, she arrived to find herself alone with Mr. Bass, who had set two places at the table, with wine. He later took her to an upstairs room, where the first sexual assault occurred. She was 17.
After that, she said, Mr. Bass would tell her nearly every day where to meet him privately — sometimes in a storage room at school or in an office, where he would lock a metal door. When she began to express reluctance, she said, he pressured her.
“Any time he told me to be ready or meet him somewhere, I had to be there,” she said. “If I didn’t, there would be consequences.”
One night when she threatened to tell the police about the relationship, she said, Mr. Bass insinuated that his time in the military had given him the skills that would allow him to kill her without anyone knowing.
Ms. Leloup eventually did go to the police, who charged Mr. Bass, citing a recorded conversation in which he acknowledged a sexual relationship. He pleaded guilty to two counts of aggravated statutory rape in 2019 and was sentenced to four years in prison.
It was not the only case to involve overt threats. In Mountain Grove, Mo., two teenagers, one of them who had been just 14, reported persistent abuse by the J.R.O.T.C. instructor, David Russell Long, that involved knives, hot wax, bags over their heads and being tied to a bed. One of them told the police that Mr. Long, who was 52 when the assaults began, once blindfolded her, directed her to kneel at his bedside and put a gun to her head, according to a police affidavit filed with the court.
Mr. Long pleaded guilty to two counts of assault for grazing the girls’ bodies with a knife and a count of endangering the welfare of a child. He was sentenced to 14 years in prison.
With at least 33 instructors charged with teacher-student sexual crimes in the past five years, the J.R.O.T.C. program has recorded one arrest for every 232 instructor positions. There is no national tracking system for educator abuse, but The Times reviewed arrest information for high school teachers released by three of the nation’s largest school districts — Miami-Dade County, Fla., Hillsborough County, Fla., and Los Angeles — along with five years of disciplinary records in Pennsylvania, which proactively monitors for teacher arrests.
Compared with each of those jurisdictions, the J.R.O.T.C. program recorded teacher-student sexual misconduct charges much more often — 68 percent higher than the next highest case rate.
Former J.R.O.T.C. students who were victimized say they have faced years of struggle to get their lives back on track. One says she sometimes goes into a closet to scream where no one will hear her. Another said she broke down at her job at Wendy’s when someone in military-style fatigues entered the restaurant.
Jacey Antokoletz, 23, said the abuse she endured as a high school junior in Brewster, N.Y., left her dreading sleep because of recurring nightmares about her J.R.O.T.C. instructor, Christopher Vlangas.
For a time, Ms. Antokoletz had viewed the relationship as consensual, even writing a letter in support of him after he was arrested on charges of abusing a different student. Ms. Antokoletz said it was only then, after meeting with a prosecutor who explained how adults can target and manipulate children, that she started to see that Mr. Vlangas had abused her, too.
Ms. Antokoletz, who now has a child with her fiancé, fears that her young daughter might misinterpret her skittishness around men, including those closest to her.
“If I flinch at something or I just don’t want to be touched and she sees that, she sees like, ‘Oh, what is Daddy doing to Mommy?’” Ms. Antokoletz said.
Mr. Vlangas pleaded guilty to a statutory rape charge involving the other student and was sentenced to six months in jail. Ms. Antokoletz and the other student recently settled a lawsuit against Mr. Vlangas and the school district.
Some victims have seen their cherished aspirations of a career in the military disrupted.
One of them, a young woman in Florida, said she had enrolled in the program as a high school freshman, hoping it would help her fulfill her ambition to join the Coast Guard.
But by her junior year, the instructor, Bryan Teet, who was then 47, started making comments about her looks and giving gifts, she said, then went further for the first time when he drove her home one day.
A jury convicted Mr. Teet on a charge of sexual battery by a custodial authority last year. Then, in April, an appeals court reversed the conviction, saying that Mr. Teet was not a “custodial authority” at the time of the alleged abuse because it occurred outside of his school duties. The case might have had a different outcome had the state filed a different criminal charge, the judges wrote. The state has appealed to the Florida Supreme Court.
During one of the court hearings, the victim told the judge that her years in J.R.O.T.C. had destroyed her life.
Now 21, she fought back tears as she described spending much of her senior year alone in her room. The independence and fearlessness she had cherished were gone.
“Mr. Teet’s actions ruined everything for me — my past, my present and my future,” she told the court.
After graduation, she applied to enter the Coast Guard, but when she drove to the military processing center in Tampa, she said in an interview, she was told that the Coast Guard could not accept her because of indications of lingering trauma from abuse. (The Coast Guard said in a statement that she had been rejected for “medical conditions.”)
She made the 90-minute drive home alone, crying.
No prison time
Ms. Bauer, the young woman from Mississippi who had hoped to go into the Marine Corps, said that Mr. Hardin continued to pursue sexual encounters with her for several months after he transferred to the new job at another school district. He would ask her to meet, she said, and gradually she began to realize that she no longer needed to respond.
She eventually told her mother, and then the police. Mr. Hardin was charged in 2017 with six counts of sexual battery.
He eventually pleaded no contest to a lesser crime, contributing to the abuse or neglect of a child, in which he did not admit any sexual misconduct but said he had failed to notify the authorities about unrelated possible abuse or neglect that Ms. Bauer suffered at home. One judge rejected the plea arrangement. A second judge also balked, saying it did not address the issues raised in the charges against Mr. Hardin. Defense lawyers eventually won a hearing before a third judge, who accepted the deal.
Hal Kittrell, the district attorney in the case, said prosecutors always believed Ms. Bauer but had to consider the likelihood of winning the case, including whose testimony jurors would be more likely to believe and how they would weigh the fact that Ms. Bauer had initially defended Mr. Hardin, something he said was not uncommon for victims of abuse.
Prosecutors agreed to the plea because it gave Mr. Hardin a felony record and barred him from working as a teacher, Mr. Kittrell said.
Mr. Hardin declined an interview but emphasized in a brief conversation that the original charges against him had been dropped.
Ms. Bauer has been trying to put the painful episode behind her. In the middle of it, at age 17, she had carved words into her leg: “Useless” and “Whore.” The scars lingered for years.
But a couple of years ago, when she turned 20, she got a tattoo on her thigh, an image that harnessed her Native American heritage and covered over the scars. It was a raven, an emblem of rebirth.
She said the experience forever changed her view of men, the justice system, schools and the military.
“The people who are supposed to be out protecting our country, do they really protect their own people?” Ms. Bauer said.
She never joined the Marines.
The locations of public high schools with J.R.O.T.C. programs come from the Army, Air Force, Marine Corps and Navy websites. The Times joined this data with federal Education Department data that includes each school’s racial demographics and the school’s eligibility for Title I funding.
The data set of public high schools includes those in the 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia, including the Bureau of Indian Education, that go up to at least the 10th grade, as of the 2019-2020 academic year. The analysis does not include J.R.O.T.C. programs located at private schools, schools on U.S. territories or schools on international military bases.
By Chuck Cairns, July 7, 2022https://workersvoiceus.org/2022/07/07/book-review-biography-of-michael-harrington-exposes-his-failure-of-vision/
Michael Harrington in 1988. (Bernard Gotfryd Photograph Collection, Library of Congress)
A Failure of Vision: Michael Harrington and the Limits of Democratic Socialism
By Doug Green
(Zero Books, Alresford, England, 2021).
Greene’s book is a valuable tool for revolutionary socialists. It traces the political life of one of the most influential American socialists of the 20th century, Michael Harrington (1928-1989). Harrington was a founder of the Democratic Socialists of America, which is now the largest socialist organization in America, and it is growing rapidly. As Greene says, “Since 2016, members swarmed into DSA as ‘democratic socialism’ gained in popularity with the 2016 and 2020 presidential campaigns of Bernie Sanders. In just 3 years, DSA has gone from an older-aged paper membership of 6500 to a vibrant and younger one approaching an impressive 60,000, and it is now the largest socialist organization in the United States in over 60 years.”
According to the DSA website as of this writing, it has grown to over 92,000 dues-paying members since Greene wrote. It is obvious that there is a large reservoir of young people fed up with a government that is unable to govern while the world is going to hell in a basket, and who are energetically looking for ways to take matters into their own hands. Many of these youth consider themselves socialist and they quite naturally flock to the DSA. However, as Greene explains, the DSA has neither the political program nor the leadership cadre to lead a transition from capitalism to socialism. This is tragic; the world needs a socialist revolution, yet the largest socialist party in America is not up to the job. Revolutionary socialists should use Greene’s book as an educational tool to help recruit for building a party that is capable of leading the human race from capitalism to socialism.
Greene’s book has 11 chapters and an appendix. The main body of the book traces Harrington’s life from his Jesuit education as an Irish Catholic in St. Louis, Mo., to his commitment to Democratic Socialism and the founding of DSA. The appendix is an evaluation of Harrington’s interpretation of Marxism; not only can this be read independently of the first 11 chapters, but it is an excellent primer of the Marxist political tradition, including the essential contributions of Lenin and Trotsky, in the form of a critique of Harrington’s thinking.
Greene describes how Harrington’s politics never rose above those of a petty bourgeois radical. He was unable to make a firm choice between support of a revolutionary program and catering to the liberal bourgeoisie; he was comfortable with the middle-class values of his upbringing and never adopted a proletarian political perspective. He arrived at his socialism not through any personal experiences in the class struggle, but through his Jesuit-trained intellectual reasoning and debating skills. He enjoyed the company of intellectuals and middle-class liberals more than that of militant youth and rank and file; he was never able to penetrate deeply into workers’ struggles, but rather catered to the labor bureaucracy who had been, essentially, bought off by the capitalists.
The main political idea that guided Harrington throughout his political career was the Realignment Strategy (RS) that he proposed in the 1960s. Despite the fact that RS has been an “unmitigated disaster for democratic socialism and the wider left” (p. 13), MH stuck with it until his dying day. Although the DSA has technically dropped RS, the party’s practices remain well within the confines of that strategy, a point made not only by Greene, but also by Kim Moody in “Breaking the Impasse.”[i] RS holds that socialists should work within the Democratic Party because its major “constituents” are “labor unions, blacks, women and farmers,” and that socialists should drive “out its racist, conservative and wealthy elements so that the party would truly represent the interests of the ordinary people.” The realigned Democratic Party can then be used to push for strengthening welfare, passing the Green New Deal, instituting universal health insurance, and building a just and efficient democracy here in the metropolis of the empire, a democracy like those in most of the rest of the capitalist world. All this would “lay the foundations for democratic socialism.”
Many of the fallacies of RS that Greene points out apply to the current DSA. First and foremost is the idea that socialist forces could somehow capture the Democratic Party and convert it into an instrument to replace capitalism with socialism. The Democratic Party is a sophisticated tool that has been used by the capitalists and imperialists since Roosevelt to thwart, co-opt or otherwise head off any serious challenges to their rule. The capitalists, who hold a firm hegemony within the Democratic Party, are very experienced at using this tool. It is pure hubris to think that socialists could somehow hoodwink the capitalists into ceding their party to socialists so that we could weaken their hold on power. The Democratic Party has a set of very effective strategies for becoming the graveyard of all progressive social movements, including labor, civil rights, environmental movements, women’s rights, LGBTQ+ rights, etc. It stretches plausibility to think that we could somehow convert the Democratic Party into an instrument for transitioning from capitalism into socialism.
The American ruling class in the 1930’s was faced with a working class that was showing unprecedented combativity as it flocked by the millions into the CIO (Congress of Industrial Organizations). The question of the day was whether this heralded an organization of the workers into political organizations, independent of the capitalist class, where they might be able to develop a program of mounting a serious challenge to capitalist rule. President Roosevelt managed to reform the Democratic Party into an instrument that was able to restructure the instruments of class rule so as to absorb this discontent into traditional political norms. That is where the leaders of the Democratic Party, a section of the ruling class, learned to co-opt, decapitate and comfortably absorb any social movements that have the vaguest hope of challenging capitalism. And that is why the Democratic Party is poison for any socialist movement. Not only are they far too crafty for us to snatch their party away from them, it wouldn’t be a useful tool even if we did; the Democratic Party is designed for capitalist rule, not for proletarian rule.
Another fallacy that Greene points out is that RS is doomed to failure because “it refused to develop an independent socialist organization,” (p. 68) a flaw that persists into the current DSA. DSA is a membership, dues-paying organization, but it is hardly independent of the Democratic Party. A perusal of their website reveals that a major focus of their activity is running their own candidates on the Democratic ticket. Whenever any of their candidates fail an election, DSA usually ends up supporting a Democrat as “a lesser evil” candidate. As an inheritor of Harrington’s RS, the DSA is hardly “an independent socialist organization.”
A third fallacy that Greene points out with RS is that “the liberal-labor alliance was an illusion of Harrington’s own imagination.” Citing Kim Moody,[ii] he argues that liberalism was “mostly a middle class phenomenon” that not only could never gain sufficient traction to challenge capitalist property relations but was even unable to expand Roosevelt’s New Deal programs such as a national health-care system. Even though liberals were not effective allies for social change, Harrington nevertheless argued that winning and maintaining liberal support was absolutely necessary for transitioning from capitalism to socialism; socialists therefore had to “practice moderation and respectability by playing nice in the Democratic Party” (p. 68). The proper arena for political actions by socialists was in the Democratic Party, not in the streets. Greene says “… RS forced socialists to maintain good relations with liberals in the hopes of reform at the expense of revolutionary militancy from below” (p. 69).
This is an important point: because Harrington’s road to socialism requires not antagonizing labor bureaucrats, liberals and other allies in the Democratic Party, radical activity must be carefully reined in. Chapter 8 of Greene’s book, entitled “The Tightrope,” gives revealing examples of how Harrington would consistently subordinate political independence and a revolutionary program to coalitions with liberal capitalist politicians. Harrington’s stance on the imperialist assault on Vietnam is particularly revealing because it illustrates typical petty bourgeois vacillations—an inability to make a firm choice between the camps of the proletariat and the bourgeoisie, of revolution and imperialism. As long as Lyndon Baines Johnson, a Democrat was in the White House, Harrington counterposed the moderate slogan “Negotiations Now” against the increasingly popular antiwar demand “Out Now”[iii] because he did not want to “actually offend the sensibilities of Democratic Party Liberals or anticommunists in the AFL-CIO.” However, when Nixon, a Republican, became president in 1968, MH abruptly switched and favored an American withdrawal without prior negotiations.
Harrington’s utter lack of a revolutionary program is revealed by an incident that Greene recounts in Chapter 9, which describes the formation of the Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee. By 1976, DSOC had managed to “become part of the mainstream Democratic Party, just as our theory said we should, and had even won the approval of voters in one congressional district in the process. Our only problem was, we didn’t know what to do.” One must marvel at his lack of program such that he didn’t know what his next step would be upon winning a major political “victory.”
I propose that revolutionary socialists use Greene’s book in an educational campaign aimed at the young workers and students who are attracted to the current DSA. It not only exposes the fatal flaws of DSA and its commitment to the Democratic Party, it also provides, in the Appendix, a very useful introduction to the revolutionary thought of Marx, Lenin, and Trotsky.
[i] Moody, Kim, “Breaking the Impasse: Electoral Politics, Mass Action, and the New Socialist Movement in the United States.” (Chicago: Haymarket Books) 2022.
[ii] Moody, Kim, “On New Terrain: How Capital is Reshaping the Battleground of Class War” (Chicago: Haymarket Books) 2017.
[iii] Fred Halstead’s book “Out Now,” describes the important role of revolutionary socialists in the movement against the U.S. war in Vietnam and it holds important lessons for contemporary socialists. Halstead, Fred, “Out Now! A Participant’s Account of the Movement in the U.S. against the War in Vietnam.” (New York: Pathfinder Press) 1978, 1991.
By Frederica Perera and Kari Nadeau, July 9, 2022
Dr. Perera and Dr. Nadeau are professors who study the health effects of air pollution on children.https://www.nytimes.com/2022/07/09/opinion/environment/climate-change-supreme-court-epa-children-health.html
Climate change and air pollution — both largely driven by fossil fuel emissions — inflict a huge toll on the health of children. This is especially true within low-income communities and communities of color. The recent Supreme Court decision, West Virginia v. Environmental Protection Agency, that curtails the E.P.A.’s power to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from power plants will greatly exacerbate this harm.
The Clean Power Plan, the federal regulation adopted as part of the Clean Air Act under President Barack Obama, which is at the heart of the ruling, would have required states to meet targets for reduction of carbon dioxide emissions from electric power plants. Utilities could meet them in part by shifting from coal to cleaner sources. The court’s majority sided with coal companies and Republican states, ruling that Congress had not given the E.P.A. the authority to reduce power plant emissions in the broad manner proposed in the plan.
Going forward, a failure to sharply reduce U.S. emissions from power plants and rapidly transition to clean energy will make it virtually impossible for the world to stay below 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit), the threshold laid out by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to avoid catastrophic effects of climate change.
As researchers who study the health effects of air pollution in children — in utero through adolescence — we recently reviewed hundreds of studies and concluded that climate change is a threat multiplier for infants and children, placing nearly every child around the world at risk from at least one climate-intensified hazard: extreme heat, severe storms and floods, wildfires, food insecurity and insect-borne diseases.
Prolonged heat exposure — especially for people without access to cooling — can increase the risks of preterm birth and low birth weight, as well as heat stress and kidney disease. Infants and children are less able to regulate body temperature in conditions of severe heat, and they must depend on care by adults who may be unaware of the risks.
Extreme weather events, like Hurricanes Katrina, Sandy and Harvey, have displaced more than 900,000 Americans, and many children suffer from PTSD and depression as a result. Wildfires in the Western United States now expose over 7 million children to lung-damaging smoke every year, and infectious diseases like Lyme disease have sharply increased among children, in part because of climate change.
Fossil fuels are responsible for the majority of human-caused air pollution globally, and in the United States, air pollution has long been recognized as a trigger of asthma attacks in children. It is now understood to be a cause of asthma and other respiratory diseases. The list goes on: Infant death, preterm birth, reduced I.Q., attention problems, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, autism, structural and functional changes in the brains of children and mental health conditions in children and adolescents have all been linked to air pollution.
We are now learning that climate change and air pollution can combine to increase adverse health effects. For example, wildfires, made more frequent and severe by climate change, release vast quantities of particulate matter and other pollutants, adding to the emissions from burning fossil fuels. The failure to reduce emissions from power plants will sustain unhealthy air quality in places where 137 million Americans live. That’s more than a third of the total U.S. population.
Studies have shown that concurrent exposure to heat and air pollution is increasing the incidence of preterm births, as well as childhood asthma hospitalizations. As more children are exposed to air pollution, extreme temperatures and stress from climate change, the cumulative effects on their health could be serious.
Adverse experiences in childhood, such as disasters and displacement, don’t just raise the short-term risk of mental health issues; they also confer a vulnerability to anxiety, depression and mood disorders in adulthood. And worries about climate change are causing problems of their own. Studies suggest that awareness of climate change and its effects can increase the risk of anxiety and other mental health problems among the young. In a survey across 10 countries, nearly 60 percent of young people said that they felt very worried or extremely worried about climate change; more than 45 percent said that their feelings about climate change negatively affected their daily lives.
There are many reasons for the disproportionate toll of climate change and air pollution on children’s health. Fetuses, infants and children are uniquely vulnerable because they develop so rapidly and because they lack the defense mechanisms that adults have.
Children breathe more air relative to their body weight than adults, which increases their exposure to air pollutants, and their narrower airways are vulnerable to constriction by air pollutants and allergens. Because children require more nutrients and fluids while they are growing, they are more vulnerable to food and water shortages. Children are more prone than adults to physical injury and psychological trauma from the displacement that frequently follows weather disasters. And they have a long remaining lifespan during which early illnesses such as asthma or mental health conditions may persist.
While all children are vulnerable, the health burden from these threats is far greater for low-income children and for children of color. In the United States, Black and Hispanic children have disproportionate exposure to air pollution because polluting sources are frequently located in disadvantaged neighborhoods. Discriminatory policies, including redlining, have created urban heat islands in communities of color where there are fewer trees and shaded areas where children live, play and go to school.
The Supreme Court decision will be costly for children and their families, not only in terms of the pain and suffering of children, but because caring for a preterm baby or a child with asthma puts a strain on an entire family. The emotional and financial stress of caring for the child can be considerable, and the extra time that is needed to care for the child may make it difficult for the parent to hold down a job. The Supreme Court decision is an especially bitter pill given that we already know the Clean Air Act has delivered health and environmental benefits for all Americans— estimated at $2 trillion as of 2020, exceeding its costs by a factor of 30.
Under the court’s decision, the E.P.A. can still write standards that require power plants to reduce their pollution, but the piecemeal approach will take time. In the meantime, it is critical that the Senate follow the House of Representatives and pass the reconciliation bill containing strong investments in climate and environmental justice solutions. These investments will help hasten the transition from fossil fuels, reducing the threats to children and adults alike from climate change and air pollution. But there is no question that the conservative majority on the court has taken away the most powerful solution to cutting pollution from power plants.
By Elizabeth Wolfe, Travis Caldwell, Rosa Flores and Rosalina Nieves, CNN
Updated 9:59 AM ET, Wed July 13, 2022
School surveillance video obtained by the Austin American-Statesman shows officers in the hallway of Robb Elementary during the shooting.
(CNN)Surveillance video of law enforcement's response during the Uvalde school massacre gives the clearest account yet of how officers waited outside an elementary classroom as the gunman continued firing, killing 21 students and teachers on May 24.
The video -- published by the Austin American-Statesman newspaper Tuesday, in a decision that enraged families of the victims who had yet to see the footage themselves -- shows responding officers approaching the door of the classroom within minutes of the shooter entering, yet retreating after the gunman opened fire at them.
After more than an hour -- with the hallway growing more crowded with officers from different agencies -- the doorway of the classroom was breached by law enforcement and the gunman was shot and killed.
The leak and subsequent release of the footage was particularly painful for the victims' families, including a group of parents and relatives who said they were blindsided Tuesday while in Washington, DC, to speak with elected officials. They expected to see the footage Sunday, when the Texas House Committee investigating the shooting planned to show it to the families before releasing it to the public.
"We get blindsided by a leak," said Angel Garza, whose 10-year-old daughter, Amerie Jo, was killed. "Who do you think you are to release footage like that of our children who can't even speak for themselves, but you want to go ahead and air their final moments to the entire world? What makes you think that's OK?"
The video, lightly edited by the American-Statesman to blur at least one child's identity and to remove the sound of children screaming, still leaves some questions unanswered -- in particular, why the law enforcement response was so delayed.
"They just didn't act. They just didn't move," Uvalde County Commissioner Ronald Garza said on CNN's "New Day" on Wednesday. "I just don't know what was going through those policemen's minds that tragic day, but ... there was just no action on their part."
The video also does not answer the question of "who, if anybody, was in charge," state Sen. Roland Gutierrez (D) told CNN on Tuesday.
"Even if we see 77 minutes in a hallway, it's not going to tell us who was in charge or who should have been in charge. And I think that's the sad statement of what happened on May 24 is that no one was in charge."
Gutierrez criticized the Texas Department of Public Safety for having a multitude of officers on site yet not taking control of the situation. The state agency has consistently pointed to Pedro "Pete" Arredondo, the Uvalde school district police chief, as the on-scene commander during the attack.
Arredondo was placed on leave as school district police chief in June and has not given substantial public statements about his decision-making that day despite intense public scrutiny, though he told the Texas Tribune that he did not consider himself to be the leader on the scene. On Tuesday, the Uvalde City Council accepted his resignation from his position as councilman.
Families of the victims said they were disturbed by the leaked footage, saying it was just the latest in a long line of examples of their wishes being pushed to the side. Officials say they had planned to show the footage to families this weekend before releasing it publicly.
"There's no reason for the families to see that," Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin said of the leak. "I mean, they were going to see the video, but they didn't need to see the gunman coming in and hear the gunshots. They don't need to relive that, they've been through enough," he said.
Officials harshly criticize video's early release
The Austin American-Statesman's decision -- along with TV partner KVUE -- to release the footage was harshly criticized by local officials who echoed the concerns of parents, saying certain graphic audio and images should not have been included.
"While I am glad that a small portion is now available for the public, I do believe watching the entire segment of law enforcement's response, or lack thereof, is also important," the chairman of the state House Investigative Committee, state Rep. Dustin Burrows (R) tweeted.
"I am also disappointed the victim's families and the Uvalde community's requests to watch the video first, and not have certain images and audio of the violence, were not achieved," he wrote.
In the first edited video, which is a little over four minutes long, audio captures frantic teachers screaming as the gunman crosses the parking lot after crashing his truck just outside Robb Elementary School's campus.
He then enters the school at 11:33 a.m., turns down a hallway carrying a semi-automatic rifle, walks into a classroom and opens fire. As the shots ring out, a student who had been peeking around the hallway corner at the gunman quickly turns and runs away.
Minutes later, officers rush into the hallway and approach the door, but immediately retreat to the end of the hall when the shooter appears to open fire at them at 11:37 a.m. Law enforcement continues to arrive in the crowded hallway but do not approach the door again until 12:21 p.m. and wait until 12:50 p.m. to breach the classroom and kill the gunman.
A second edited video, lasting almost an hour-and-a-half, was also published on the newspaper's YouTube channel.
In the footage, the sound of children screaming has been edited out, but the stark sounds of gunfire are still clearly audible and the gunman's face is briefly shown as he comes through the school doors.
"It is unbelievable that this video was posted as part of a news story with images and audio of the violence of this incident without consideration for the families involved," McLaughlin said in a statement.
The American-Statesman defended its decision, with executive editor Manny Garcia writing in an editorial, "We have to bear witness to history, and transparency and unrelenting reporting is a way to bring change."
McLaughlin also shared his disappointment that a person close to the investigation would leak the video.
"That was the most chicken way to put this video out today -- whether it was released by the DPS or whoever it was. In my opinion, it was very unprofessional, which this investigation has been, in my opinion, since day one," he said during a city council meeting Tuesday.
What will happen next
Despite the leak of the surveillance footage, the Texas House Investigative Committee still plans to meet with victims' families on Sunday and provide them with a fact-finding report as originally scheduled, a source close to the committee told CNN.
The report will show that there was not one individual failure on May 24, but instead a group failure of great proportions, the source said. Members of the committee also asked the director of Texas DPS, Col. Steve McCraw, to testify a second time on Monday to get further clarification on earlier sworn testimony before the Texas House and Senate, according to the source.
Meanwhile, some outraged family members took to social media to urge people not to share the video while families come to terms with the footage and the law enforcement behavior it reveals. "PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE DO NOT SHARE THE VIDEO!! We need time to process this!!," posted Berlinda Arreola, grandmother of Amerie Jo Garza.
Gloria Cazares, whose daughter Jacklyn was killed, also implored her Facebook family and friends not to share the video, saying it is "the opposite of what the families wanted!"
"If you are a true friend please do not share it, I don't want to see it in my feed nor do I want to be tagged on any of the news stations that are sharing it. Our hearts are shattered all over again!," Cazares wrote.
The Uvalde school district has scheduled a meeting on July 18 where McLaughlin said he hopes the City Council and victims' families will be able to get details about the return to school.
The school district previously announced that Robb Elementary School students will not return to the campus and will be reassigned to other schools.
CNN's Steve Almasy, Andy Rose, Elizabeth Joseph, Taylor Romine, Shimon Prokupecz, Eric Levenson, Cheri Mossburg, Christina Maxouris, Mary Kay Mallonee, Vanessa Price and Dave Alsup contributed to this report.
The case became a flash point in the abortion debate after the young victim was forced to travel out of state for the procedure.
By Ava Sasani, July 13, 2022https://www.nytimes.com/2022/07/13/us/ohio-arrest-rape-abortion.html
An Ohio man has been arrested and charged with the rape of a 10-year-old girl, whose travel across state lines to receive an abortion captured national attention.
Gerson Fuentes, 27, was arraigned on Wednesday in Franklin County Municipal Court in Columbus, where he was charged with the rape of a child under 13 years old, a felony that can carry a lifetime prison sentence. He was being held on $2 million bond.
The arrest, and its connection to the case of the young rape victim, was first reported in The Columbus Dispatch after a public dispute over whether the story was true.
The case of the young victim became a focus of the abortion debate after the Supreme Court overturned the constitutional right to abortion enshrined in Roe v. Wade.
That decision triggered a wave of abortion restrictions, including a law in Ohio that bans abortion after about six weeks of pregnancy, with no exception for rape or incest. The law blocked the 10-year-old from receiving an abortion in her home state after her parents discovered she was pregnant.
According to a doctor familiar with her case, and testimony from a court hearing, the girl’s family took her to Indiana to receive an abortion, where the procedure is still legal up to 22 weeks.
The girl’s story, which first appeared in The Indianapolis Star, was immediately seized on by abortion rights advocates as the tragic but expected consequence of severe abortion restrictions.
President Biden cited the story after signing an executive order on abortion: “Ten years old. Raped, six weeks pregnant. Already traumatized. Was forced to travel to another state.”
Before this week’s arrest, some conservatives, including Ohio’s top prosecutor, cast doubt on the story. The young girl has not been identified publicly, nor has the Ohio doctor who first treated her, and Attorney General David Yost told Fox News that his office was unaware of a case involving a 10-year-old rape victim.
On Wednesday, Mr. Yost’s office released a statement praising the arrest of Mr. Fuentes.
“My heart aches for the pain suffered by this young child,” the statement said. “I am grateful for the diligent work of the Columbus Police Department in securing a confession and getting a rapist off the street.”
In an editorial published before news of the arrest, The Wall Street Journal called the case “an unlikely story from a biased source that neatly fits the progressive narrative but can’t be confirmed.” The Journal later added an editor’s note acknowledging the arrest.
In a video of the court hearing posted by the conservative news site Townhall, Detective Jeffrey Huhn testified that the victim was a 10-year-old whose mother took her to Indiana to receive an abortion at the end of June when she was just past six weeks pregnant. Detective Huhn said in Wednesday’s hearing that Mr. Fuentes confessed to raping the girl twice.
The Columbus Division of Police declined to comment.
A spokesman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said Mr. Fuentes was an undocumented immigrant. A lawyer for Mr. Fuentes did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The timeline laid out in the police testimony matches the account provided by Dr. Caitlin Bernard, the OB/GYN who first told The Star about the case.
“It’s always shocking to me that people are surprised to hear about these stories,” Dr. Bernard said in an interview with The New York Times. “The fact that anyone would question such a story is a testament to how out of touch lawmakers and politicians are with reality.”
Dr. Bernard said such stories were unfortunately not as rare as people might think, and noted that she cared for her first underage rape victim early on in her medical residency. She has since helped several families navigate pregnancy after a child is raped, she said.
More than 7,000 girls age 14 or younger were pregnant nationwide in 2013, according to a report by the Guttmacher Institute, a research organization that supports abortion rights. About half of those pregnancies were terminated through abortion, according to Guttmacher.
Ohio’s own public health data found that more than 500 girls and women 18 and under received an abortion in 2020.
Some anti-abortion lawmakers have approached the challenge of a Balkanized legal landscape with proposals to deter residents from traveling to other states to seek abortions. Gov. Eric Holcomb of Indiana called a special legislative session, scheduled for July 25, where the state may consider tighter abortion restrictions.
A new report asserts that ordering juvenile offenders to pay compensation to their victims often derails their lives, and victims’ rights groups see shortcomings as well.
By Erica L. Green, July 14, 2022
Ms. Guevara, now 19, entered the juvenile justice system at 13, after she ran away from home for the first time, hoping to escape a volatile relationship with her mother. Credit...Rachel Bujalski for The New York Times
WASHINGTON — Arabella Guevara spent much of her adolescence paying for her mistakes.
She entered the juvenile justice system at 13, after she ran away from home for the first time, hoping to escape a volatile relationship with her mother. Before long, running away escalated to petty theft, then stealing cars and breaking into homes. It cost her nearly two years spent in and out of juvenile facilities, and many additional months still tied to the system through probation.
When her final stint on probation ended last year and her juvenile record was sealed because she had turned 18, “It was like a whole chapter of my life that had been closed,” Ms. Guevara said in an interview. “I was free.”
But before long she began receiving monthly reminders that she was anything but. Bills totaling $60,000 in restitution owed for her crimes began pouring in, drowning the teenager in debt just as she had started trying to get back on her feet.
Ms. Guevara, now 19, is one of thousands of teenagers and young adults across the country paying restitution imposed by juvenile courts to compensate their victims for losses and damages related to their crimes. But a new report examining the practice asserts that many are paying into a broken system — one that often derails the lives of the young offenders the juvenile system was created to rehabilitate, all the while delaying or even denying compensation to their victims.
The report, published Thursday by Juvenile Law Center, a national legal aid and advocacy group based in Philadelphia, sheds light on a rarely scrutinized process through which juvenile offenders can become trapped in a perpetual cycle of debts owed to society.
Ms. Guevara has been off probation for more than a year; she has had no encounters with the police. She is the mother of a newborn boy, and works at an advocacy organization in her hometown, San Jose, Calif., helping at-risk youth stay out of the criminal justice system.
“I have to pay for a crime that I’ve already paid for, and I can’t afford it,” Ms. Guevara said. “It’s like society has deemed us as unworthy of redemption.”
While the imposition of similarly burdensome fines and fees on juvenile offenders and their families has drawn attention from policymakers in recent years, advocates and lawyers say the restitution system has proved more difficult to reform. That’s in part because that system is built on a false premise, they say.
“The theory of restitution is to make the victim whole, and there’s also supposed to be a lesson to the child that their actions have consequences,” said Nicole El, the assistant chief of the Children and Youth Justice Unit in Philadelphia’s public defender’s office. “What it does in practice is handcuff children and their families financially.”
The Juvenile Law Center report, which examined youth restitution laws in all 56 states and U.S. territories, does not quantify how many young people owe restitution from year to year. But it found a patchwork of policies that the report’s authors described as delivering “justice by geography,” burdening indigent youth with little to no income with debts that many will never pay or finish paying. And although the system was created in the 1960s as a way to offer mostly white juvenile offenders an alternative to jail, it now largely burdens poor youth of color, who are overrepresented in the juvenile justice system.
Every juvenile court across the country has the right to order restitution — usually imposed for crimes such as property damage and theft — but the way amounts are determined varies wildly, as does enforcement, the report found.
Eleven states and territories mandate restitution when any quantifiable damages are assessed, while the rest leave it up to a judge’s discretion. Only five states and three territories cap the restitution a young offender can be ordered to pay, the report found. Those who cannot pay end up facing a range of penalties — including incarceration, extended probation and the inability to expunge their records — that can keep young people entangled in the system well beyond the length of their sentences. In one of the most extreme policies, the report found, juvenile courts in Washington State can retain jurisdiction over young people until they turn 28, and can extend a restitution judgment by 10 additional years for collection purposes.
But the report also pointed to an equally worrisome outcome: the system rarely works as intended for crime victims themselves. In states that report restitution collections, none reported more than a third of such payments actually being collected. One study cited in the report found that as much as 77 percent of all restitution ordered goes uncollected.
Fourteen jurisdictions order restitution to be paid to third parties, such as government agencies and insurance companies, while others require young people to pay into state victim compensation funds, which are difficult for many victims to access.
Victims’ rights groups also see shortcomings in the system. The National Center for Victims of Crime said in a statement that while it believes financial compensation is an important part of the “restorative process” for crime survivors, it also believes that “imposing high restitution costs on juveniles who are justice involved can unintentionally cause more harm by creating barriers to release and services.”
“In addition,” the statement said, “we know that the majority of youth who are justice involved have histories of trauma and victimization, and a large financial obligation may cause even more harm. We would encourage communities to engage with both survivors and justice-involved youth to determine a process that is fair and restorative to all parties.”
The Juvenile Law Center is advocating several reforms, including alternatives such as diversion programs with a restorative justice approach and expanding the eligibility for state victim compensation funds.
Maine passed legislation in 2019 that reformed its juvenile restitution system and is showing results, legal experts say. The new statutes now presume that people younger than 16 are not able to pay restitution, allow for a juvenile offender’s restitution to be reduced or wiped clean should their circumstances change and require payments to go directly to victims rather than corporations like insurance companies.
As a result, youth offenders in their 20s have been able to leave the juvenile system after having their restitution balances discharged, said Christopher Northrop, a clinical professor at the University of Maine School of Law, who also leads a legal aid clinic that helped advocate the changes. Younger offenders, who are allowed to perform community service and other restorative justice activities in lieu of payment, have seen their cases resolved more quickly.
“It has eliminated the collateral consequence of system involvement for young people so they can get on with their lives,” said Jill Ward, an adjunct professor at the Law School and director of the Maine Center for Juvenile Policy and Law.
More than 30 states do not require courts to consider whether a youth can pay. Some expressly prohibit them from doing so, which the report said can present crippling obstacles to youth as they transition to adulthood. They can face garnished wages, including from their commissary accounts while in juvenile detention and their paychecks when they are employed.
Some laws allow unpaid restitution to accrue interest, and turn into a civil liability, which can in turn wreak havoc on credit scores and other public records of consequence.
Ultimately, the report found, “this means a child from a well-off family who can easily pay off restitution gets a clean slate as they leave the system, while a child from a poor family is stuck with a record of juvenile justice involvement for no reason other than poverty.”
In some states, such as California, where Ms. Guevara lives, the financial responsibility falls to the parents if a youth cannot pay.
Since being released from juvenile detention, Ms. Guevara has been living with her mother off and on; though their relationship has remained rocky, they have survived homelessness and eviction together, and Ms. Guevara did not want to further burden her.
After receiving notices threatening to take them both to court, she began paying $7 per month to the state, which is what she can afford while working part time for $20 an hour and paying her bills.
Her restitution payments are supposed to cover medical bills for the injuries one victim suffered when she tried to prevent Ms. Guevara from stealing her car; fees to change security systems and locks in the homes she invaded; and damage to the cars that she stole.
The philosophy that “you do the crime, you pay the fine” is pervasive in courts, advocates say, but it undermines the very point of a system that is supposed to be redemptive, rather than punitive, as the adult system is, Ms. El said.
She and other public defenders often find themselves performing a balancing act in trying to advocate for their clients, she said, many of whom come from households with incomes under $10,000 a year. “We don’t want victims to be out thousands and thousands of dollars — we’re people like everyone else — but we’re also representing children,” Ms. El said. “And is it reasonable that children can pay back thousands of dollars? It is not.”
In studies cited in the report, interviews with victims eligible for restitution found that very few seek monetary compensation from juvenile offenders.
Moreover, state-reported data reviewed by the Juvenile Law Center shows that those victims who do seek restitution from young offenders rarely succeed in collecting it. For example, in a 2017 study conducted in Alabama, only 15 percent of the restitution fees related to juvenile cases were eventually collected.
Ms. Guevara said she thinks about her victims often, particularly an elderly man whose car she stole. She later found out he was a retired sheriff. He visited her in a juvenile facility and was so disturbed at the sight of her in shackles that he requested they be removed.
Sitting across from her, the former sheriff, who declined to be interviewed for this article, said all he wanted was to know what had happened in her life that brought her to that night, and a promise from her that she would work toward righting her path.
These days, she said, keeping that promise feels ever more elusive.
The two-bedroom apartment Ms. Guevara shared with her mother and four others felt too crowded recently, and tensions began running high. Determined not to expose her son to the tumult that characterized her own childhood, she found herself on the move again.
The same week she became homeless, her restitution was abruptly raised to $100 per month — or, by Ms. Guevara’s calculation, four packs of diapers and three of baby formula.
“I was doing good, just trying to do the right thing, and it’s not enough for them,” she said. “It’s like I’m locked up again.”
Muhammad A. Aziz filed the $40 million claim on Thursday, seeking redress for a conviction that overshadowed 55 years of his life.
By Ashley Southall, July 14, 2022https://www.nytimes.com/2022/07/14/nyregion/malcolm-x-murder-lawsuit-40-million.html?action=click&module=Well&pgtype=Homepage§ion=New%20York
New York’s criminal justice system took 55 years to acknowledge that it had wrongly branded Muhammad A. Aziz as one of Malcolm X’s killers.
Now, he and the city are at loggerheads over how much it should pay for the two decades he spent imprisoned after his conviction for murder in March 1966, one year after assassins cut down a towering figure of the civil rights era.
Lawyers for Mr. Aziz, 84, filed a civil rights lawsuit on Thursday seeking $40 million from the city for its role in a notorious verdict that was vacated last year after the Manhattan district attorney apologized in court for illegal conduct by the police and prosecutors who handled the case.
The complaint, filed in federal court in Brooklyn, signaled the breakdown of settlement negotiations between the city comptroller and Mr. Aziz. It is the start of what could be a lengthy legal battle that his lawyers worry might outlive him. A co-defendant, Khalil Islam, died in 2009, a cloud still over him.
The convictions were “the result of outrageous government misconduct and violations of their constitutional rights,” said David Shanies, a lawyer for Mr. Aziz and Mr. Islam’s estate. “These men and their families should not be delayed compensation for the gross injustices they suffered.”
Mr. Aziz was a 26-year-old married father of six young children when he was convicted in 1966 of first-degree murder in the killing of Malcolm X, who was about to embark on a new phase of his career following a bitter break from the Nation of Islam, a Black nationalist group. Mr. Aziz and Mr. Islam were condemned despite a lack of physical evidence, conflicting statements from prosecution witnesses, and a third defendant taking the witness stand to confess to his role and to proclaim the two other men’s innocence.
In court papers, Mr. Aziz’s lawyers accused the New York Police Department and the Manhattan district attorney’s office of withholding evidence that supported his claim of innocence, using eyewitness procedures that were suggestive, and coercing witnesses to give false testimony — echoing investigative findings that led to his exoneration. Twenty-four former officers are named in the complaint.
“He spent 20 years, during what should have been the prime of his life, locked in prison for a crime he did not commit,” the lawyers said in court papers. “The damage done to Mr. Aziz and his family was immense and irreparable.”
The lawsuit’s filing makes the city’s Law Department, led by Sylvia Hinds-Radix, the corporation counsel, the main agency considering redress for Mr. Aziz, rather than Comptroller Brad Lander’s office. Representatives for the comptroller and the Law Department did not immediately respond to the lawsuit.
Mr. Shanies filed a separate claim Thursday for the estate of Mr. Islam, who was exonerated posthumously in the same proceedings last year. Mr. Islam, who was imprisoned for 22 years before his release, died in 2009 at age 74, still fighting to clear his name.
Mr. Aziz previously filed a lawsuit against New York State that was settled for $5 million in April, according to a court filing. Mr. Islam’s estate expects a similar agreement.
In December, Mr. Shanies filed notices of claim with the city on behalf of the men and their families. The step is required under state law that is aimed at giving the parties time to negotiate a resolution rather than battling in court.
Victims of wrongful convictions who have their cases overturned often sue for redress, with payments varying from several thousand dollars to tens of millions.
In May, the city agreed to pay $7 million to Grant Williams, a studio worker for the rap group Wu-Tang Clan, who spent 23 years in prison before he was cleared last year of charges that he killed a man in 1996 on Staten Island. Two other men, Amaury Villalobos and William Vasquez, received $31 million in 2017 after a court overturned their conviction on charges that they set a fire in 1980 that killed a woman and her five children.
In 2014, five men exonerated in the beating and rape of a female jogger in 1989 in Central Park agreed to settle their lawsuit against the city for $41 million — roughly $1 million for each year they each spent in jail.
All were aided by district attorneys’ offices joining a national trend of prosecutors setting up units devoted to reviewing old cases. Like the original wrongful convictions, undoing them has had a disproportionate impact on Black defendants, who are more likely than their white counterparts to be victims of official misconduct.
Mr. Aziz and Mr. Islam’s case was singular in its historic importance, and for the admission of wrongdoing by one of the nation’s most powerful local prosecutors on behalf of his office and the Police Department.
But it was also notable because serious historians of law enforcement and the civil rights era had insisted for decades that the convictions were a miscarriage of justice. Some went as far as to publicly name men who they believe were the true assassins.
Calls for Congress, the F.B.I. and the Manhattan district attorney to reopen the case were ignored. In the official record, the case is now unsolved.
The former Manhattan district attorney, Cy Vance Jr., agreed to re-examine the case in 2020 before the release of a Netflix documentary piecing together an alternate theory of the case.
Mr. Vance, before he stepped down at the end of last year, stood in front of dozens of onlookers in the courthouse where the men were convicted and asked a judge to vacate the verdicts. He apologized on behalf of the police and prosecutors “for what were serious, unacceptable violations of law and public trust.”
A trial judge dismissed a second-degree murder charge against the former officer, Christopher Smelser, in the death of Antonio Valenzuela, 40, during a traffic stop in Las Cruces.
By Vimal Patel and McKenna Oxenden, July 14, 2022
Family members of Antonio Valenzuela cried after Judge Douglas Driggers dismissed a second-degree murder charge against a former police officer, Christopher Smelser, on Thursday. Credit...Meg Potter/Sun-News, via Imagn
A judge in New Mexico on Thursday cleared a former police officer who was accused of killing a man by using a chokehold technique, a practice that has come under intense scrutiny in recent years amid calls for police reform.
The former officer, Christopher Smelser of the Las Cruces Police Department, had faced a charge of second-degree murder in the death of Antonio Valenzuela, 40, after the father of four fled from officers in February 2020 during a traffic stop in Las Cruces, a city about 45 miles west of El Paso. The Police Department said that Mr. Valenzuela had an open warrant because of a parole violation and that officers had fired a Taser at him twice as he ran away.
After hearing arguments from the defense and prosecutors on Thursday in a trial that began on Monday, Judge Douglas Driggers of Third Judicial District Court dismissed the charge against Mr. Smelser, 29, who could have faced up to 15 years in prison had he been convicted.
“The issue before the court is whether or not substantial evidence has been presented to this jury to show that this defendant intended to commit a crime,” Judge Driggers said in court after hearing arguments, according to The Las Cruces Sun News. “That intent was to cause the death or great bodily injury of the victim.”
Judge Driggers said there was insufficient evidence and dismissed the case, the newspaper reported.
Hector Balderas, New Mexico’s attorney general, whose office prosecuted the case, said in a statement that Judge Driggers “got it wrong by not allowing the jury to rule on the evidence of the illegal chokehold.”
“The judge’s decision today essentially acquits Smelser without the opportunity for the empaneled jury of Smelser’s peers to consider the evidence against him,” he said.
Lawyers for Mr. Smelser did not immediately respond to phone calls and email messages on Thursday.
Police brutality and the use of chokeholds became a topic of national conversation after Derek Chauvin, a Minneapolis police officer, killed George Floyd in 2020 by kneeling on his neck for more than nine minutes. Last year, Mr. Chauvin was convicted of murdering Mr. Floyd and was sentenced to 22 and a half years in prison. He has appealed.
Last week, Mr. Chauvin was also sentenced to 21 years in federal prison for civil rights violations.
The Las Cruces Police Department declined to comment on Mr. Smelser’s acquittal, but said previously in a statement that the neck restraint used on Mr. Valenzuela was prohibited immediately after the episode.
The City of Las Cruces settled with Mr. Valenzuela’s family in late 2020, agreeing to pay $6.5 million and make numerous policy changes for the Police Department, including banning chokeholds and immediately firing any officer who violates the policy.
Mr. Smelser, who was with the department for four years, was fired from the force in June 2020 after Mr. Valenzuela’s autopsy report was released, the department said.
The Las Cruces medical examiner’s office determined that Mr. Valenzuela had died from the injuries caused by being asphyxiated, the department said.
Based on the book about psychedelic therapy, a new Netflix docu-series prompted another writer to reach out to Pollan — and dig into his own experiences.
By Chris Vognar, July 15, 2022
Michael Pollan with Erika Gagnon, of Esalen Institute. His later-life investigations into psychedelics prompted a New Yorker article, a book and now a Netflix series. Credit...Netflix
In late 2012, the best-selling author and journalist Michael Pollan (“The Omnivore’s Dilemma”) was at a dinner party in Berkeley, Calif. Among his fellow diners was a prominent developmental psychiatrist, in her 60s, who spoke at some length about a recent LSD trip. This pricked up Pollan’s ears.
His first thought, as he shared during a recent video interview: “People like that are taking LSD?” The psychiatrist went on to explain that the drug gave her a better understanding of the way children think.
“Her hypothesis,” Pollan said, “was that the effects of psychedelics, LSD in that case, give us a taste of what child consciousness would be like — this kind of 360-degree taking-in of information, not particularly focused, fascinated by everything.”
Pollan had already heard about clinical trials in which doctors were giving cancer patients psilocybin to help them deal with their fear of death. Now, he was really curious about psychedelic therapy. That curiosity became an article in The New Yorker (“The Trip Treatment,” 2015). The article became a book, “How to Change Your Mind” (2019).
And now the book has become a four-part Netflix series of the same name, which debuted Tuesday. Pollan is an executive producer (along with the Oscar-winning filmmaker Alex Gibney) and the primary on-camera presence.
A thoughtful and wide-ranging look at psychedelic therapy, the series is grounded in accounts of their centuries-long sacramental use and of their uneasy history in modern society, especially in the United States. In particular, it focuses on four substances — LSD, mescaline, MDMA (known as Ecstasy or Molly) and psilocybin (the active ingredient in magic mushrooms) — and the ways in which they are being used to treat patients with maladies including post-traumatic stress disorder, addiction, depression, anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder.
One of those patients is Lori Tipton, a New Orleans woman who endured a Job-like run of ill fortune. Her brother died of an overdose. Her mother murdered two people and then killed herself; Tipton found the bodies. She was raped by an acquaintance. Not surprisingly, she developed severe PTSD.
“I really felt like I couldn’t access joy in my life, even when it was right in front of me,” Tipton said in a video interview. She thought about suicide constantly. When she heard about a clinical trial for MDMA, held in 2018, she figured she had nothing to lose.
I can relate to some of this. A few years back I was diagnosed with PTSD and clinical depression after my life partner, Kate, was diagnosed with a terminal brain disease and died about 18 months later, in 2020. I didn’t have much interest in living. Running out of options, my doctor prescribed me a weekly regimen of esketamine, which is a close relative of the dissociative hallucinogen ketamine.
Like many, I had experimented with hallucinogens, including mushrooms and LSD, in my youth. I was partying, not seeking. I never planned to go back there. But the treatment started helping me almost immediately.
Pollan, 67, never did the youthful experimenting. Known primarily as an expert in plants and healthy eating — his latest book, “This is Your Mind on Plants,” comes out in paperback on July 19 — he came to psychedelics late in life. He was too young to indulge in the Summer of Love, and by the 1970s, the war on drugs and anti-LSD hysteria had quashed what had been a fertile period of scientific research in the ’50s.
But once he began studying, and experimenting, he became a convert rather quickly.
“At this age sometimes you need to be shaken out of your grooves,” he says in the Netflix series. “We have to think about these substances in a very cleareyed way and throw out the inherited thinking about it and ask, ‘What is this good for?’”
Tall and bald with the build of a swimmer, Pollan is no Timothy Leary — he isn’t asking anyone to drop out — and the medical trials described and shown in “How to Change Your Mind” shouldn’t be confused with Ken Kesey’s freewheeling acid tests of the ’60s. Back then, when psychedelics left the laboratory and entered the counterculture, the power structure freaked out.
“Kids were going to communes, and American boys were refusing to go to war,” Pollan said. “President Nixon certainly believed that LSD was responsible for a lot of this, and he may well have been right. It was a very disruptive force in society, and that is why I think the media after 1965 turns against it after being incredibly enthusiastic before 1965.”
Junk science spread nonsense about LSD scrambling chromosomes. The drug was made illegal in California in 1967, and then nationally in 1970. Researchers weren’t forbidden from continuing their work with psychedelics, but the stigma made such work very rare until it re-emerged in the 2000s. Today, clinical trials are approved by the F.D.A. and D.E.A.
“From the early ’70s to the early ’90s, there was no approved psychedelic research in human subjects,” said Charles Grob, a professor of psychiatry and pediatrics at U.C.L.A., who has written widely about psychedelic therapy. “Since then, research development has re-emerged and slowly evolved, until the last few years when professional and public interest in the topic appears to have exploded.”
Given evolving attitudes, one challenge facing the filmmakers, including the directors Alison Ellwood and Lucy Walker, was how to depict the psychedelic experience in a sophisticated way, without stumbling into the territory of a ’60s exploitation movie.
“We didn’t want to fall into the trap of using psychedelic visual tropes — wild colors, rainbow streaks, morphing images,” Ellwood wrote in an email. “We wanted to keep the visual style more personal, intimate and experiential. We wanted people watching the series who have not had their own psychedelic experiences to be able to relate to the visuals.”
One imaginative scene recreates the famous bicycle ride taken by the Swiss chemist Albert Hofmann, who first synthesized LSD in 1936 but didn’t discover its psychedelic effects until 1943 (accidentally). Feeling strange after ingesting 250 micrograms, Hofmann rode his bike during the peak of his trip. In “How to Change Your Mind,” we see the buildings around him bend and waver as he rides. The road beneath him blurs. The tombstones in a graveyard sway.
Tipton’s experience in her clinical MDMA trials was more controlled but no less profound. The results after three sessions, she said, were beyond what she could have imagined.
“As the sessions progressed, I worked with the therapists to remain embodied and fully present to my emotions as I recalled some of the most difficult experiences of my life,” Tipton said. “In doing this, I was able to find a new perspective, one that had eluded me for years. And from this place I could find empathy, forgiveness and understanding for many people in my life, but most importantly for myself.”
Her descriptions sounded familiar. In 2020, I began going to my doctor’s office once a week to ingest three nasal spray inhalers and sit for two hours, pausing only to have my blood pressure taken halfway through. I didn’t hallucinate, but I found myself conversing with Kate as if she were in the room.
I saw my grief as something separate from my being, something more akin to love than death. I didn’t identify with my pain in the same way.
It was, without question, a spiritual experience. Then, two hours later, a bit groggy but otherwise back to normal, I was ready to go home. After a few such sessions, combined with talk therapy, I started to see a light at the end of the tunnel. Esketamine is technically not a psychedelic, but it had certainly changed my mind.
It’s safe to say Pollan’s has changed, too. He recently became a co-founder of the University of California Berkeley Center for the Science of Psychedelics. A portion of his author website now serves as an informational clearinghouse for people looking to learn more. Word of his effort appears to be spreading. His book on the subject was name-checked on a recent episode of the HBO Max series “Hacks.” The Netflix series has already cracked the streamer’s Top 10 in the United States.
Bit by bit, the country’s laws are beginning to reflect evolving attitudes. Last year, Oregon voters approved a ballot initiative that directs the Oregon Health Authority to license and regulate “psilocybin products and the provision of psilocybin services.” Colorado appears likely to vote on a similar initiative this fall.
For Pollan, such efforts strike a personal nerve.
“The ego is a membrane between you and the world,” he said. “It’s defensive and it’s very useful. It gets a lot done, but it also stands between us and other things and gives us this subject-object duality. When the ego is gone, there is nothing between you and the world.”
“Getting perspective on your ego is something you work at in psychotherapy,” he added. “But this happened for me in the course of an afternoon, and that’s what’s remarkable about it.”