URGENT ACTION NEEDED!
We demand that ALL "illegal abortion" charges against Madison County, Nebraska women be dropped
In Madison County, Nebraska, two women- one the mother of a pregnant teenager who was a minor at the time of her pregnancy and is being charged as an adult- are facing prosecution for self managing an abortion. In an outrageous violation of civil liberties, Facebook assisted the police and county attorney in this case by turning over communication between the daughter and her mother regarding obtaining abortion pills which is not illegal in Nebraska. The prosecutor has used this information to charge the daughter, her mother, and a male friend who assisted them after the fact with illegal abortion along with additional trumped up charges of "concealing a body."
We demand that ALL charges be dropped against all three of them and we ask that you call the office of Madison County Attorney Joseph Smith at 402-454-3311 Ext. 206 with the following:
"I am calling to demand that all charges against Jessica Burgess, her daughter, and their friend be dropped. In your own words- no charges like this have ever been brought before. That is because criminalizing abortion is unjust and unconstitutional. We will not stand for any charges being brought against any pregnant person for the outcome of their pregnancy OR anyone who assists that pregnant person. Drop all charges NOW."
You can also email County Attorney Smith here.
If you pledged to #AidAndAbetAbortion- NOW is the time to stand up for these women in Nebraska as this could be any of us in the future.
National Women's Liberation (NWL) is a multiracial feminist group for women who want to fight male supremacy and gain more freedom for women. Our priorities are abortion and birth control, overthrowing the double day, and feminist consciousness-raising.
NWL meetings are for women and tranpeople who do not benefit from male supremacy because we believe we should lead the fight for our liberation. In addition, women of color meet separately from white women in Women of Color Caucus (WOCC) meetings to examine their experiences with white supremacy and how it intersects with male supremacy to oppress women of color.
Learn more at womensliberation.org.
Questions? Email email@example.com for more info.
No to red-baiting in the reproductive justice movement
National Radical Women statement
By Nga Bui, NYC
At a time when a united mass movement to defend reproductive justice is needed more than ever, NYC for Abortion Rights and nearly two dozen organizations have chosen to launch an anti-communist attack against one of the most visible activist groups, Rise Up 4 Abortion Rights. Radical Women, a veteran socialist feminist organization with decades of experience in the movement for reproductive justice, denounces this dangerous game of divide and conquer.
The “Statement Against RiseUp4AbortionRights” – signed by NYC for Abortion Rights, United Against Racism & Fascism NYC, Brooklyn People’s March, Shout Your Abortion, The Jane Fund, Chicago Abortion Fund, Chicago DSA Socialist Feminist Working Group and others – deplores Rise Up’s connections to the Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP). It labels this well-known fixture on the Left as a personality cult. It accuses both Rise Up and RCP of using pyramid schemes to raise money and exploitative methods to recruit. These unsubstantiated claims are bolstered by other “crimes”: wearing white pants stained with fake blood, holding die-ins, using coat-hanger imagery, and describing forced pregnancy as “female enslavement.” The Statement calls on “repro groups to now unite in discrediting Rise Up publicly” and demand that “the group step back from pro-abortion spaces.” This divisive attack is like a dog-whistle to corporate media, which is crawling all over the issue in coverage from Daily Beast and The Intercept.
Imperfect as Rise Up may be, the reality is the group has been out front nationally in defense of abortion – though not the only group as they have claimed. It has consistently organized protests and used audacious tactics such as unfurling huge banners at sports events to draw media attention to the issue. It has broadened its messaging after being criticized that its single-issue focus on women having abortions was transphobic and limiting. Its green wave imagery is omnipresent and its anti-capitalist message is spot-on. Its boldness has resonated with youth.
Truth be told, it has been largely the Left, including Radical Women, that organized rallies, speak outs, marches, and protests throughout last year to draw attention to the impending Supreme Court debacle. Meanwhile, moderate feminist organizations pushed online fundraising and waited for the Democratic Party to ride to the rescue.
One has to think that some of the venom expressed in the Statement is from groups that did much less than Rise Up and may begrudge its appeal to young people. Others may be driven to undermine the influence of the Left in the movement overall. How condescending it is for them to demand that Rise Up disappear rather than trust young supporters to reach their own conclusions about whether Rise Up’s strategies work in the long run.
Radical Women initiated the National Mobilization for Reproductive Justice a year ago in order to build the kind of coalition effort we think is urgently needed to preserve abortion and achieve full reproductive justice. The Mobilization has attracted feminist groups, grassroots organizations, unions, radicals, and individuals coming together in common cause. Though Rise Up in many instances put itself in competition with actions announced by the Mobilization, we managed to work cooperatively with it in various cities, including in NYC. Rather than demanding political conformity, we believe in respectfully debating differences. With the right wing intensifying its attacks on the most vulnerable, a united front of working-class organizations is essential to pushing them back.
Red-baiting, smearing people or groups for their radical associations, is not acceptable in the movement. It needs to be stopped before it further hurts the very women, people of color, non-binary, trans and poor folks looking to find a channel for their rage as their rights are stripped away. There’s no denying that those of us fighting for abortion rights and reproductive justice will have differences of opinions. It is essential we learn to work together with mutual respect instead of excluding, silencing and witch-hunting one another. Organizations and independent activists can unite around issues while maintaining our differences. The future of reproductive justice and all social movements depends on it.
—Radical Women, August 2, 2022
CUBA URGENTLY NEEDS OUR HELP TODAY!
MATANZAS IS NOT ALONE!
The unprecedented massive fire at the Supertanker Base in Matanzas province has not abated. Dozens of people have suffered burns, 16 firefighters are still missing, and thousands are evacuated. Heroic efforts by firefighters and civil defense are 24/7.
Supplies are urgently needed to save the lives of the burn and other victims affected by the fire. The Hatuey Project is working to provide some of the most critical supplies for burn and other patients.
Please make a monetary donation so we can buy medical items in bulk and ship immediately to Matanzas.
Cuba has been through so much during the time of pandemic. Despite a heroic and successful campaign to vaccinate virtually all of Cuba from COVID, this summer has been particularly taxing for all of Cuba. Now the fire has added to the hardship.
Please click here to make a donation to The Hatuey Project for Matanzas Relief. Every donation to Hatuey is tax-deductible through our fiscal sponsor, The Alliance for Global Justice.
On behalf of The Hatuey Project, we thank you.
Nadia Marsh, MD, Assoc. Prof. of Clinical Medicine
Simon Ma, MD, MPH, Family Medicine
Rachel Viqueira, MHS, Epidemiologist
Brian Becker, Executive Director, ANSWER Coalition
Gloria La Riva, coordinator, Hatuey Project
ABOUT THE HATUEY PROJECT
We are health providers and social justice activists concerned about the harmful effects of the U.S. economic blockade of Cuba. We have inaugurated this medical aid project to extend solidarity to the Cuban people, with the procurement of vital medicines and medical equipment.
Cuba has already shown that its remarkable health care and scientific/biotech systems are fully capable of serving the 11+ million people on the island, providing excellent quality, universal and free care to everyone. But more than 240 measures by the Trump administration that turned the screws even further on Cuba’s people — in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic — have created a truly difficult situation for the people. We have already taken part in direct delivery of vital medicines over the last year, and we aim to do much more.
We invite you to join in our project in any way you can: With your monetary contribution, as well as helping procure major donations from pharmaceuticals and other medical providers. We are fully volunteer; all of the donations we receive will go strictly to acquire medical aid. Shipping costs will be held to the utmost minimum. The Hatuey Project is fiscally sponsored by the Alliance For Global Justice, so all donations are tax-deductible. Join our effort today!
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: firstname.lastname@example.org
Sign our petition urging President Biden to grant clemency to Leonard Peltier.
Address: 116 W. Osborne Ave. Tampa, Florida 33603
How long will he still be with us? How long will the genocide continue?
By Michael Moore—VIA Email: email@example.com
American Indian Movement leader, Leonard Peltier, at 77 years of age, came down with Covid-19 this weekend. Upon hearing this, I broke down and cried. An innocent man, locked up behind bars for 44 years, Peltier is now America’s longest-held political prisoner. He suffers in prison tonight even though James Reynolds, one of the key federal prosecutors who sent Peltier off to life in prison in 1977, has written to President Biden and confessed to his role in the lies, deceit, racism and fake evidence that together resulted in locking up our country’s most well-known Native American civil rights leader. Just as South Africa imprisoned for more than 27 years its leading voice for freedom, Nelson Mandela, so too have we done the same to a leading voice and freedom fighter for the indigenous people of America. That’s not just me saying this. That’s Amnesty International saying it. They placed him on their political prisoner list years ago and continue to demand his release.
And it’s not just Amnesty leading the way. It’s the Pope who has demanded Leonard Peltier’s release. It’s the Dalai Lama, Jesse Jackson, and the President Pro-Tempore of the US Senate, Sen. Patrick Leahy. Before their deaths, Nelson Mandela, Mother Theresa and Bishop Desmond Tutu pleaded with the United States to free Leonard Peltier. A worldwide movement of millions have seen their demands fall on deaf ears.
And now the calls for Peltier to be granted clemency in DC have grown on Capitol Hill. Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI), the head of the Senate committee who oversees the Bureau of Indian Affairs, has also demanded Peltier be given his freedom. Numerous House Democrats have also written to Biden.
The time has come for our President to act; the same President who appointed the first-ever Native American cabinet member last year and who halted the building of the Keystone pipeline across Native lands. Surely Mr. Biden is capable of an urgent act of compassion for Leonard Peltier — especially considering that the prosecutor who put him away in 1977 now says Peltier is innocent, and that his US Attorney’s office corrupted the evidence to make sure Peltier didn’t get a fair trial. Why is this victim of our judicial system still in prison? And now he is sick with Covid.
For months Peltier has begged to get a Covid booster shot. Prison officials refused. The fact that he now has COVID-19 is a form of torture. A shame hangs over all of us. Should he now die, are we all not complicit in taking his life?
President Biden, let Leonard Peltier go. This is a gross injustice. You can end it. Reach deep into your Catholic faith, read what the Pope has begged you to do, and then do the right thing.
For those of you reading this, will you join me right now in appealing to President Biden to free Leonard Peltier? His health is in deep decline, he is the voice of his people — a people we owe so much to for massacring and imprisoning them for hundreds of years.
The way we do mass incarceration in the US is abominable. And Leonard Peltier is not the only political prisoner we have locked up. We have millions of Black and brown and poor people tonight in prison or on parole and probation — in large part because they are Black and brown and poor. THAT is a political act on our part. Corporate criminals and Trump run free. The damage they have done to so many Americans and people around the world must be dealt with.
This larger issue is one we MUST take on. For today, please join me in contacting the following to show them how many millions of us demand that Leonard Peltier has suffered enough and should be free:
President Joe Biden
E-mail: At this link
Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland
Attorney General Merrick Garland
E-mail: At this link
I’ll end with the final verse from the epic poem “American Names” by Stephen Vincent Benet:
I shall not rest quiet in Montparnasse.
I shall not lie easy at Winchelsea.
You may bury my body in Sussex grass,
You may bury my tongue at Champmedy.
I shall not be there. I shall rise and pass.
Bury my heart at Wounded Knee.
PS. Also — watch the brilliant 1992 documentary by Michael Apted and Robert Redford about the framing of Leonard Peltier— “Incident at Oglala”
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 • firstname.lastname@example.org • www.bls.gov/cps
(202) 691-5902 • PressOffice@bls.gov
In 2021, the number of wage and salary workers belonging to unions continued to decline (-241,000) to 14.0 million, and the percent who were members of unions—the union membership rate—was 10.3 percent, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. The rate is down from 10.8 percent in 2020—when the rate increased due to a disproportionately large decline in the total number of nonunion workers compared with the decline in the number of union members. The 2021 unionization rate is the same as the 2019 rate of 10.3 percent. In 1983, the first year for which comparable union data are available, the union membership rate was 20.1 percent and there were 17.7 million union workers.
These data on union membership are collected as part of the Current Population Survey (CPS), a monthly sample survey of about 60,000 eligible households that obtains information on employment and unemployment among the nation’s civilian noninstitutional population age 16 and over. For further information, see the Technical Note in this news release.
Highlights from the 2021 data:
• The union membership rate of public-sector workers (33.9 percent) continued to be more than five times higher than the rate of private-sector workers (6.1 percent). (See table 3.)
• The highest unionization rates were among workers in education, training, and library occupations (34.6 percent) and protective service occupations (33.3 percent). (See table 3.)
• Men continued to have a higher union membership rate (10.6 percent) than women (9.9 percent). The gap between union membership rates for men and women has narrowed considerably since 1983 (the earliest year for which comparable data are available), when rates for men and women were 24.7 percent and 14.6 percent, respectively. (See table 1.)
• Black workers remained more likely to be union members than White, Asian, or Hispanic workers. (See table 1.)
• Nonunion workers had median weekly earnings that were 83 percent of earnings for workers who were union members ($975 versus $1,169). (The comparisons of earnings in this news release are on a broad level and do not control for many factors that can be important in explaining earnings differences.) (See table 2.)
• Among states, Hawaii and New York continued to have the highest union membership rates (22.4 percent and 22.2 percent, respectively), while South Carolina and North Carolina continued to have the lowest (1.7 percent and 2.6 percent, respectively). (See table 5.)
Industry and Occupation of Union Members
In 2021, 7.0 million employees in the public sector belonged to unions, the same as in the private sector. (See table 3.)
Union membership decreased by 191,000 over the year in the public sector. The public-sector union membership rate declined by 0.9 percentage point in 2021 to 33.9 percent, following an increase of 1.2 percentage points in 2020. In 2021, the union membership rate continued to be highest in local government (40.2 percent), which employs many workers in heavily unionized occupations, such as police officers, firefighters, and teachers.
The number of union workers employed in the private sector changed little over the year. However, the number of private-sector nonunion workers increased in 2021. The private-sector unionization rate declined by 0.2 percentage point in 2021 to 6.1 percent, slightly lower than its 2019 rate of 6.2 percent. Industries with high unionization rates included utilities (19.7 percent), motion pictures and sound recording industries (17.3 percent), and transportation and warehousing (14.7 percent). Low unionization rates occurred in finance (1.2 percent), professional and technical services (1.2 percent), food services and drinking places (1.2 percent), and insurance (1.5 percent).
Among occupational groups, the highest unionization rates in 2021 were in education, training, and library occupations (34.6 percent) and protective service occupations (33.3 percent). Unionization rates were lowest in food preparation and serving related occupations (3.1 percent); sales and related occupations (3.3 percent); computer and mathematical occupations (3.7 percent); personal care and service occupations (3.9 percent); and farming, fishing, and forestry occupations (4.0 percent).
Selected Characteristics of Union Members
In 2021, the number of men who were union members, at 7.5 million, changed little, while the number of women who were union members declined by 182,000 to 6.5 million. The unionization rate for men decreased by 0.4 percentage point over the year to 10.6 percent. In 2021, women’s union membership rate declined by 0.6 percentage point to 9.9 percent. The 2021 decreases in union membership rates for men and women reflect increases in the total number of nonunion workers. The rate for men is below the 2019 rate (10.8 percent), while the rate for women is above the 2019 rate (9.7 percent). (See table 1.)
Among major race and ethnicity groups, Black workers continued to have a higher union membership rate in 2021 (11.5 percent) than White workers (10.3 percent), Asian workers (7.7 percent), and Hispanic workers (9.0 percent). The union membership rate declined by 0.4 percentage point for White workers, by 0.8 percentage point for Black workers, by 1.2 percentage points for Asian workers, and by 0.8 percentage point for Hispanic workers. The 2021 rates for Whites, Blacks, and Hispanics are little or no different from 2019, while the rate for Asians is lower.
By age, workers ages 45 to 54 had the highest union membership rate in 2021, at 13.1 percent. Younger workers—those ages 16 to 24—had the lowest union membership rate, at 4.2 percent.
In 2021, the union membership rate for full-time workers (11.1 percent) continued to be considerably higher than that for part-time workers (6.1 percent).
In 2021, 15.8 million wage and salary workers were represented by a union, 137,000 less than in 2020. The percentage of workers represented by a union was 11.6 percent, down by 0.5 percentage point from 2020 but the same as in 2019. Workers represented by a union include both union members (14.0 million) and workers who report no union affiliation but whose jobs are covered by a union contract (1.8 million). (See table 1.)
Among full-time wage and salary workers, union members had median usual weekly earnings of $1,169 in 2021, while those who were not union members had median weekly earnings of $975. In addition to coverage by a collective bargaining agreement, these earnings differences reflect a variety of influences, including variations in the distributions of union members and nonunion employees by occupation, industry, age, firm size, or geographic region. (See tables 2 and 4.)
Union Membership by State
In 2021, 30 states and the District of Columbia had union membership rates below that of the U.S. average, 10.3 percent, while 20 states had rates above it. All states in both the East South Central and West South Central divisions had union membership rates below the national average, while all states in both the Middle Atlantic and Pacific divisions had rates above it. (See table 5 and chart 1.)
Ten states had union membership rates below 5.0 percent in 2021. South Carolina had the lowest rate (1.7 percent), followed by North Carolina (2.6 percent) and Utah (3.5 percent). Two states had union membership rates over 20.0 percent in 2021: Hawaii (22.4 percent) and New York (22.2 percent).
In 2021, about 30 percent of the 14.0 million union members lived in just two states (California at 2.5 million and New York at 1.7 million). However, these states accounted for about 17 percent of wage and salary employment nationally.
Coronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic Impact on 2021 Union Members Data
Union membership data for 2021 continue to reflect the impact on the labor market of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Comparisons with union membership measures for 2020, including metrics such as the union membership rate and median usual weekly earnings, should be interpreted with caution. The onset of the pandemic in 2020 led to an increase in the unionization rate due to a disproportionately large decline in the number of nonunion workers compared with the decline in the number of union members. The decrease in the rate in 2021 reflects a large gain in the number of nonunion workers and a decrease in the number of union workers. More information on labor market developments in recent months is available at:
Resources for Resisting Federal Repression
Since June of 2020, activists have been subjected to an increasingly aggressive crackdown on protests by federal law enforcement. The federal response to the movement for Black Lives has included federal criminal charges for activists, door knocks by federal law enforcement agents, and increased use of federal troops to violently police protests.
The NLG National Office is releasing this resource page for activists who are resisting federal repression. It includes a link to our emergency hotline numbers, as well as our library of Know-Your-Rights materials, our recent federal repression webinar, and a list of some of our recommended resources for activists. We will continue to update this page.
If you are contacted by federal law enforcement you should exercise all of your rights. It is always advisable to speak to an attorney before responding to federal authorities.
State and Local Hotlines
If you have been contacted by the FBI or other federal law enforcement, in one of the following areas, you may be able to get help or information from one of these local NLG hotlines for:
If you are located in an area with no hotline, you can call the following number:
Know Your Rights Materials
The NLG maintains a library of basic Know-Your-Rights guides.
WEBINAR: Federal Repression of Activists & Their Lawyers: Legal & Ethical Strategies to Defend Our Movements: presented by NLG-NYC and NLG National Office
We also recommend the following resources:
Movement for Black Lives Legal Resources
In a video widely shared on social media, two deputies and a police officer were seen beating a suspect outside a convenience store. The three were suspended pending an investigation.
By Vimal Patel, Aug. 22, 2022
The Arkansas State Police are investigating the beating of a man during his arrest on Sunday morning outside a convenience store in Mulberry, Ark., by three officers, one of whom could be seen on video repeatedly punching the man’s head and smashing it into the pavement. Another officer held the man down while the third repeatedly drove his knee into the man’s body.
A 34-second video of the arrest, which was taken by a bystander in Crawford County, about 160 miles northwest of Little Rock, was shared widely on social media and even prompted Gov. Asa Hutchinson to weigh in.
Two of the officers were suspended, and one was placed on administrative leave during the investigation, law enforcement agencies said.
The Crawford County Sheriff’s Department identified the man who was arrested as Randal Worcester of Goose Creek, S.C., and said he was charged with second-degree battery, resisting arrest, terroristic threatening, second-degree assault and other charges. The nature of his injuries was not immediately clear, but the Arkansas State Police said he was treated at a hospital and released.
“The state police investigation will be limited to the use of physical force by the deputies and the police officer,” the Arkansas State Police said in a statement.
The statement added that after the investigation was complete, the case would be submitted to the Crawford County prosecuting attorney to determine whether the use of force was justified.
The video involves two deputies from the Crawford County Sheriff’s Office and one officer from the Mulberry Police Department, according to statements from both agencies. The Mulberry Police Department said its officer was on administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation, and the Crawford County Sheriff’s Office said its officers had been suspended.
Phone calls and emails to both departments were not immediately returned late Sunday and early on Monday. Both agencies released similar statements saying that they hold their employees “accountable for their actions.”
The names of the officers were not immediately released, and it was not clear whether the officers or Mr. Worcester had lawyers.
Mr. Hutchinson said that he had spoken with William J. Bryant, the commander of the Arkansas State Police, and that the episode would be investigated because of the video footage and at the request of the prosecuting attorney.
It was not immediately clear from official sources what led to the incident. The statements by the agencies did mention body-camera footage.
KSFM-TV, a station in Arkansas, reported that Crawford County Sheriff Jim Damante said the police were called about a man who had spat on a convenience store employee and threatened to cut off the employee’s face.
Sheriff Damante said the man rode a bike to another location, where the deputies spoke calmly with him before he pushed one of the deputies to the ground and punched the back of his head, KSFM-TV reported.
Dockworkers at Felixstowe, on England’s east coast, began an eight-day strike on Sunday — the first strike since 1989. The port handles 48 percent of the United Kingdom’s container freight.
By Joël Malo, August 21, 2022
Things are heating up in the United Kingdom’s “summer of discontent” — the name that’s been given to the wave of strikes against falling wages resulting from inflation. London’s public transit network is paralyzed, and across the country only one train in five is running. Massive strikes in the transportation sector are playing out as walkouts —sometimes wildcat ones — erupting at refineries and Amazon facilities. Meanwhile, a growing number of unions in other sectors are voting to authorize strikes.
The English bourgeois press reports that inflation is 10.1 percent (the same figure the French press reports), but that’s just what the bosses say. It doesn’t account for rent increases; adding rents, one of the key costs for the working class, inflation has hit 12.4 percent in August. And as prices rise, so too does the general combativeness of workers and the will to strike.
At the end of July, the Unite union at the port of Felixstowe announced that 82 percent of workers participated in a strike authorization vote, and that the “yes” votes were 92 percent. The strike begins on Sunday, August 21, and will go for eight days.
Anti-strike laws left over from Margaret Thatcher’s time as prime minister, which force such votes well in advance, require that a majority of union members vote and count abstentions as “no” votes, are no longer working to hold back workers’ anger. In response, the Conservative government is looking for ways to beef up these anti-worker laws and is considering how to break these strikes, including allowing the hiring of workers as strikebreakers. It’s a response to how this current strike wave expresses the full power and centrality of the working class in the economy, nationally and internationally.
Paralyzing Half of All UK Container Freight
The dockers’ strike — in a strategic sector — is likely to hit Britain like an earthquake. Some 48 percent of British containers go through Felixstowe, about 17.6 million tons of containers in 2021. The strike will cause a long-lasting disruption in the logistics chain and to the supply of goods.
The Felixstowe Dock and Railway Company is owned by the Hong Kong conglomerate CK Hutchison Holdings, which initially insulted the unions by offering a pay increase of 5 percent and a £500 bonus, after increasing wages last year by only 1.4 percent. After consultation with the Advisory, Conciliation, and Arbitration Service (ACAS), a class-collaborationist governmental body used to defuse strikes, the company went up to 7 percent, still contemptuous. The 1,900 dockworkers didn’t take being spit on by the bosses of a port that makes millions in profits every year, and prepared to strike for the first time since 1989.
The capitalists at the head of the world’s leading carriers have been preparing for the strike for weeks, looking for Plan Bs to redirect their cargo to other ports in Europe. Antwerp, Rotterdam, Wilhelmshaven, and even Tangiers have been mentioned as alternative destinations. But the global supply chain is congested across the planet, and these ports are already suffering. And then there’s Germany, where dockworkers last month staged the biggest port strike in 40 years and several thousand workers walked out. On Monday, August 22, a new round of collective bargaining will open for Hamburg dockworkers. German capitalists had earlier been forced to use their courts to ban any further port strikes until August 26.
The current situation is historic, both in terms of the brutality with which the capitalists are poised to repress workers who are fighting back against falling wages, and in the number of companies facing strikes by workers who haven’t done so for years — or, in the case of English nurses, haven’t ever gone on strike. Nurses are planning a strike at the beginning of the new school year, and thousands of postal workers at the Royal Mail are planning to strike for several consecutive days beginning on August 26.
Needed: A Plan to Coordinate and Generalize the Strikes
Workers are clearly in a fighting mood. But that’s being hampered and exhausted by the divisive plans of the union leaderships. The ports are a clear example: while dockers at Felixstowe will strike from August 21 to 28, Liverpool dockers — who are employed by a different company, MDHC Container Services (a member of the Peel Ports Group) — are still in the process of voting to decide whether to strike. Their voting period ends on August 24, and any action might be delayed for several weeks. They already voted in July against the company’s offer of an increase of 7 percent — with 99 percent saying no. But the bottom line is that the 500 dockers at England’s fourth-largest port, essential for transatlantic trade, won’t be on strike at the same time as their comrades on the east coast in Felixstowe.
The same goes for every sector that is taking action, one after the other, while the specter of a general strike that could involve even more sectors has never been so relevant. People in the UK support the strikes, and several hundred thousand people around the country are ready to refuse to pay their energy bills this winter as fuel prices threaten to triple.
This “summer of discontent” is clearly hottest in the UK, but there’s a European dimension, too. There have been strikes at strategic points in the global economy that are also places of international exchange, where workers from different countries come into contact, such as ports and airports in the UK, Spain, Germany, France, Italy, and so on. It is no accident that Germany enshrined laws prohibiting port strikes, labeling them as political strikes.
It’s been more than 30 years since English and German ports have had major strikes like those today. The changing situation raises the prospect of transnational strikes and brings them to the forefront. Faced with a capitalist class organized on an international scale, the response of the workers, confronted with the same crises and the same capitalists, mustso also be international.
Environmental advocates say Hudson River Park and New York officials have failed to alert the public to waste that may be harming the ecosystem.
By Patrick McGeehan and Anne Barnard, Aug. 23, 2022https://www.nytimes.com/2022/08/23/nyregion/coned-hudson-river-park-ny.html
Pier 98 in Hudson River Park on the West Side of Manhattan. The city’s main utility, Consolidated Edison, leases the location from the trust that runs the park. Credit...Sarah Blesener for The New York Times
New York City’s largest utility company has been dumping millions of gallons of wastewater — some of it heated to above 90 degrees and some containing toxic metals like chromium and lead — into the Hudson River in a park with special protections for fish and other aquatic life, public records show.
The utility company, Consolidated Edison, has had permits to discharge the water into the river for more than 20 years from its plant on an industrial pier at the park’s north end. But an adviser to the trust charged with running the park recently discovered the dumping, prompting a dispute over whether Con Ed should be allowed to continue the practice or even remain in the park.
The utility uses the water to fill and flush giant boilers in a steam plant and to cool high-voltage electrical cables before dumping it into the river under the pier, according to those records and Con Edison officials.
A spokesman for Con Ed said the discharges occurred only about twice a week and that the presence of toxic elements in them was minimal. The effects of the dumping on water quality in the area are unclear, though plumes of hot water can be hazardous to marine life.
Officials at the trust that oversees the park were already aware of the company’s activities. Con Ed rents the pier from the trust, paying more than $1 million in annual rent, the utility confirmed.
But members of a council of advisers to the trust said they never knew about the dumping, and said it appeared to conflict with the trust’s mission as an environmental steward.
Tom Fox, an adviser to the trust, said he noticed the pipes snaking along Pier 98, which the utility leases from the trust, and started inquiring about their purpose.
Mr. Fox, 75, serves on the Hudson River Park Advisory Council, a state-mandated 50-member group established to advise the trust on park planning and operations. He joined the council as a representative of City Club, a longstanding civic organization in New York focusing on land use and development.
“The trust is getting paid rent to allow the pollution of the estuary they were established to protect,” said Mr. Fox, who helped lead the revitalization of the rotting piers that lined Manhattan’s West Side, which has transformed them into a haven for recreation. “It’s incredible to me.”
Con Ed’s wastewater dumping in the city has drawn concern from state regulators in the past. A 2010 consent order from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation shows that the company settled $5 million in fines for those violations, by agreeing to pay $1 million in fines and to contribute $4 million toward an educational center that the Hudson River Park planned to build. That center, known as the Estuarium, is still in the planning stages, trust officials said.
In the years since that consent order, the department’s records document at least 21 violations of wastewater standards and monitoring requirements at Con Edison’s pier in the park.
This month, lawyers for Mr. Fox and the City Club sent a letter to the trust, Con Edison and the Department of Environmental Conservation, giving notice of plans to sue them within 60 days for alleged violations of the federal Clean Water Act.
In a statement, the trust said Con Ed is responsible for adhering to the terms of its permits on the property.
A spokesman for the utility, Allan Drury, said that Con Edison officials were reviewing the letter from the City Club and Mr. Fox’s lawyers in detail and “have noted numerous inaccuracies,” but did not say what those were.
“Con Edison takes compliance with environmental rules and regulations extremely seriously,” Mr. Drury said.
The D.E.C. said in a statement that it “will continue to ensure compliance” with rules to protect public health and the environment and that its commitment to the ecology of the Hudson is evident in the waters of the estuary.
Con Edison, which distributes electricity, natural gas and steam across the city, started using Pier 98 in 1959 as a dock for barges carrying the oil that fueled a large steam-generating plant on West 59th Street. When the Hudson River Park was established in 1998, Con Edison was grandfathered in as a tenant because the oil delivery was a maritime use of the waterfront that the park’s founders wanted to showcase, Mr. Fox said.
Back then, Mr. Fox said he was a proponent of letting the company continue to occupy Pier 98 out of necessity.
But over the years, those oil deliveries declined as the plant switched to natural gas as its primary fuel. And gas is supplied through a pipeline, not by barge, Mr. Drury, of Con Ed, said.
Still, the company has continued to rely on the pier as the source of millions of gallons of river water that it uses to cool cables connected to a substation on West 49th Street.
Mr. Drury said the company pumps more than four million gallons a day from the Hudson at Pier 98 when its pumps are operating, but he said that has happened an average of just 118 days annually over the last six years.
In 2006, Con Edison sought permission to raise the maximum temperature of water it returned to the river to 104 degrees, from 90, the typical limit in a protected estuary, public records obtained by Mr. Fox’s lawyers show. Mr. Drury said that the water the company discharges in the river had never been limited to 90 degrees but that they had exceeded 90 degrees only six times in the last six years and had not exceeded 100 degrees during that period.
Claire Holmes, a spokeswoman for the trust, said Con Edison’s lease was the subject of public notices, a comment period and a public hearing in 2011 before the trust approved it, and was met with no objections at the time.
That lease lists “water cooling” as one of the approved uses of the pier, but it makes no mention of taking water from the river or dumping it back in. The public notice the trust published in the City Register on March 10, 2011, did not mention “water cooling” as a specific use.
As for the $4 million payment from Con Edison, Ms. Holmes said the trust played no role in negotiating it. She said the money was reserved for “the park’s long-planned Estuarium at Pier 26, an intended public education and research facility.”
Executives of the trust as well as city and state officials regularly celebrate signs of the river’s revival, such as oyster restoration projects, visits from dolphins and, just this month, a Navy SEAL swimming race.
But in an estuary depleted by centuries of human exploitation, localized risks like wastewater outflow can combine unpredictably with global threats like climate change, said George Jackman, a habitat restoration manager with Riverkeeper, an environmental advocacy group.
Mr. Jackman said the dumping of heated wastewater can be harmful to marine life because it decreases the level of dissolved oxygen in the water. Plumes of warm water can also alter the migration patterns of fish in the river, he said.
Con Ed’s outflow can be up to 20 degrees hotter than the river’s summer average and is among many sources of hot industrial wastewater pouring into New York’s waterways, which are already warming amid the climate crisis. Hotter water holds less oxygen and can suffocate aquatic creatures, and warm spots can tempt migrating fish to linger and miss the chance to mate.
“From an ecological perspective, Hudson River Park is an estuarine sanctuary,” Mr. Jackman said. “As a sanctuary, there should not be hot water discharges going into it.”
Other members of the Hudson River Park Advisory Council said the trust has been less than forthcoming.
The advisory council’s chairman, Daniel Miller, said he was perplexed that the trust did not reach out directly to consult the council, which exists under state law to advise on matters like ecology. He and other members of the council, including Mr. Fox, said they were unaware of Con Edison’s wastewater dumping.
Mr. Miller said he now worries about risks to fishers who eat their catch from the park’s piers. He vowed to press the trust to explain the situation and rectify any ecological harm.
“I want to understand,” Mr. Miller said. “They could say it’s like putting a drop in the ocean — well, prove it to me. All I know is I haven’t been in the Hudson since I found out.”
Mr. Miller said he believes the trust, under its new president, Noreen Doyle, will ensure that everything on Pier 98 is safe, clean and in the public interest, so he can return to proselytizing for a healthy river open to everyone.
“If you’ve ever been out in a kayak, on a paddle board, you get on the water and all of a sudden the noises of the city fall away,” he said. “It’s something that every New Yorker should experience.”
Mr. Brooks was shot to death in 2020, after two Atlanta officers tried to arrest him. A special prosecutor announced on Tuesday that the case against them would be dropped.
By Richard Fausset, Aug. 23, 2022
ATLANTA — More than two years after Rayshard Brooks, a 27-year-old Black man, was fatally shot by a white police officer in the parking lot of an Atlanta fast-food restaurant, a prosecutor has determined that the officer who fired, as well as another officer on the scene, “committed no crimes” in the incident.
The decision to drop charges against the two Atlanta officers was announced in a news conference on Tuesday by Pete Skandalakis, a veteran former Georgia prosecutor appointed to handle the case by Chris Carr, the Georgia attorney general. Mr. Skandalakis and another former prosecutor, Danny Porter, presided over a multimedia presentation about the June 2020 incident, which showed how Mr. Brooks, after resisting being handcuffed, sparked a violent fight with the officers, during which Mr. Brooks took Officer Devin Brosnan’s Taser and fired it at the officers.
The prosecutors said that these actions gave the other officer, Garrett Rolfe, justification to use deadly force. Mr. Rolfe fired three shots at Mr. Brooks, hitting him twice, in the back and buttocks.
“It is my conclusion that the use of deadly force was objectively reasonable and that they did not act with criminal intent,” Mr. Porter said.
Mr. Rolfe was initially charged with 11 counts, including murder, and Mr. Brosnan faced a number of lesser charges. The prosecutors said they would move to vacate those charges. Mr. Rolfe was fired from the Police Department the day after the shooting, but reinstated in May 2021 by the city’s civil service review board. Both men have been on paid administrative leave pending resolution of their case.
Now that the resolution has come, it seems unlikely to settle a matter that triggered a period of intense protest and institutional instability in Atlanta, a city with a sizable Black population that considers itself an unofficial capital of the civil rights movement. Mr. Brooks was killed a few weeks after the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer. The Atlanta killing sparked fresh rounds of street demonstrations and became part of the broader national debate about the treatment of Black Americans at the hands of the police.
At the time, Stacey Abrams, the current Democratic candidate for Georgia governor, called the incident a “murder.” Donald J. Trump, then the president, also weighed in, saying that people should not resist police officers. Mr. Trump also said he hoped Mr. Rolfe “gets a fair shake” in the legal system.
In the wake of the shooting, the Atlanta police chief at the time, Erika Shields, resigned, and the Wendy’s restaurant where the incident occurred was burned down. The area around the site was dominated for days by protesters, some of whom were armed and threatened passers-by. On July 4, 2020, an 8-year-old girl, Secoriea Turner, was fatally shot while being driven through the area in an SUV.
As Mr. Porter noted, the police encounter with Mr. Brooks began cordially in the parking lot of a Wendy’s restaurant in South Atlanta, as Mr. Brosnan responded to a 911 call. Restaurant patrons had complained that Mr. Brooks had fallen asleep, while behind the wheel of his car, in the drive-through lane. The interaction with Mr. Brooks remained businesslike as Mr. Rolfe subjected him to a drunken-driving breath test, which Mr. Brooks failed.
But as Mr. Rolfe moved to handcuff Mr. Brooks and place him under arrest, Mr. Brooks lunged forward, instigating a brawl that left Mr. Brosnan with a concussion. Mr. Brooks stole Mr. Brosnan’s Taser and shot him with it. As Mr. Brooks ran away, he pointed and fired the Taser at Mr. Rolfe, who then fired his handgun at Mr. Brooks.
In an interview on Tuesday, Gerald A. Griggs, the president of the Georgia N.A.A.C.P., criticized the decision by Mr. Skandalakis, and called upon Atlanta residents to push for a new prosecutor to be appointed who would take the case to a grand jury. Mr. Griggs said that shooting Mr. Brooks might have been justified just at the point when he was fighting with the officers. But Mr. Griggs noted that Mr. Brooks was shot while he was running away.
“He wasn’t a threat to anybody at that point,” Mr. Griggs said.
Video shows that while Mr. Brooks was running from the officers, he turned his body and aimed the Taser at Mr. Rolfe. “When Brooks takes the Taser, he now becomes basically a person with an offensive position,” Mr. Skandalakis said. “He can incapacitate the officers. A Taser in the hands of a person who is not trained can also be deadly.”
Some observers have noted that at the time Mr. Rolfe fired his handgun, Mr. Brooks had expended the two shots that the Taser was capable of firing, essentially rendering it ineffective.
But Mr. Skandalakis cited a ruling from the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals that says that such situations must be judged “through the eyes of the officer on the scene,” rather than from the comfort of an office or desk, where one has the benefit of hindsight and doesn’t have the pressure of having to make split-second, life and death decisions.
Mr. Skandalakis said it was reasonable to assume that Mr. Rolfe might not have counted the number of times the Taser was fired in the midst of the violent incident that played out in a matter of seconds.
Mr. Skandalakis refuted earlier assertions made by Paul L. Howard Jr., the former Fulton County district attorney, that Mr. Rolfe had kicked Mr. Brooks after the shooting and that the two officers had declined to render first aid to Mr. Brooks. Mr. Skandalakis said that the “frame by frame analysis” of video footage showed no evidence of a kicking, and that a number of witnesses saw the officers trying to render medical aid.
In an interview on Tuesday, Gymaco Brooks, 50, Mr. Brooks’s cousin, said he was disheartened by the decision and disputed the idea that a Taser should be considered a deadly weapon: “Some things just don’t make sense,” he said.
Amanda Clark Palmer, a lawyer for Mr. Brosnan, said in a statement on Tuesday that the decision was “long overdue.”
“Despite his own injuries,” she said, Mr. Brosnan “called for and personally rendered aid to Mr. Brooks after the shooting. At no point did he assault or abuse Mr. Brooks.”
Noah H. Pines, a lawyer for Mr. Rolfe, said that his client was “relieved.”
“Nothing that was said during the press conference today was a surprise to us. Because we knew the law, and the law justified Garrett Rolfe’s actions. And we knew the evidence. And the evidence justified Garrett Rolfe’s actions.”
Mr. Pines also accused Mr. Howard, the former district attorney, of charging the men for political reasons. Mr. Howard, who could not be reached for comment on Tuesday, was involved in a tight re-election bid at the time in a race that was won by Fani T. Willis, the current Fulton County district attorney.
In January, Ms. Willis wrote to Mr. Carr, the state attorney general, alleging that Mr. Howard had engaged in misconduct, including using videos of the Brooks shooting in campaign commercials in violation of state bar association rules. As a result, Ms. Willis argued, there was “sufficient question of the appropriateness” of the Atlanta-based prosecutor’s office to continue handling the case.
Ms. Willis asked Mr. Carr to refer the case to a special prosecutor. He initially declined, but the courts eventually sided with Ms. Willis, prompting Mr. Carr to choose Mr. Skandalakis, a former prosecutor for a stretch of West Georgia who currently serves as the executive director of the Prosecuting Attorneys’ Council of Georgia.
At the news conference, a reporter noted that Mr. Skandalakis and Mr. Porter, a former prosecutor in suburban Gwinnett County, were both white men, and another reporter asked if race played any role in the shooting.
“I don’t change the facts based on the color of a person’s skin,” Mr. Skandalakis said. He added: “I do not think this shooting was racially motivated.”
Before she orchestrated the largest intelligence leak in U.S. history, Ms. Manning was known to D.J. on occasion. On Friday night, she shook off the cobwebs in Bushwick.
By Lily Goldberg, Aug. 23, 2022
At a Friday night party in Brooklyn, Chelsea Manning led a D.J. set that included Charli XCX and the “Succession” theme. Credit...Jeenah Moon for The New York Times
Nicolas Mejía, a 22-year-old D.J. from the Cypress Hills section of Brooklyn, had been spinning records in small clubs around New York for just under a year when a call came in from a much larger venue. Elsewhere, a huge club in Bushwick, was hosting the latest installment of Sksksks, its traveling hyperpop dance party in August, and its organizers wanted the D.J. to perform the opening set.
Elsewhere is a sprawling complex that has hosted big-name experimental pop artists like Sophie and Kim Petras — this particular party would bring six up-and-coming acts to the venue’s main hall. But when the complete roster of D.J.s dropped on Instagram in the days leading up to the party, Nicolas Mejía, who performs as D4rkcircles, noticed that one particular artist on the lineup, a newcomer to the Brooklyn electronic scene, was generating more buzz than any of the other performers combined.
Who was Chelsea Manning, the D.J. wondered, and why was everyone talking about her?
It wasn’t a stage name: Chelsea Elizabeth Manning, the former Army intelligence analyst whose leak of hundreds of thousands of classified documents detailing U.S. military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan earned her a 35-year prison sentence (commuted after a presidential intercession), is indeed a D.J. And late Friday night, clad in light-up cat ears and tinted sunglasses, Ms. Manning played an hour of fast-paced dance music to a throng of writhing partygoers, some of whom were unaware that the D.J. blasting Britney Spears remixes had spent years of her life in a maximum-security military prison for disclosing secrets of U.S. military campaigns in the Middle East.
“There’s a large population of the world, or at least this country, that disagrees with what she’s done,” said David Chan, who created Sksksks. “But from my perspective, she’s a national hero.”
Mr. Chan — a party promoter and D.J. better known in New York nightlife circles as Thelimitdoesnotexist — said he hadn’t been aiming to make a political statement by inviting Ms. Manning to play at Elsewhere. While brainstorming potential artists for the Sksksks party, which is geared toward queer and trans partygoers, Mr. Chan stumbled across a 2018 article published in The Outline in which Ms. Manning (who is transgender) revealed her background in D.J.ing and electronic music production.
Unsure whether she would respond, Mr. Chan messaged Ms. Manning on Instagram to ask whether the former army intelligence analyst would be interested in returning to her raver roots. “My art is booking an act people talk about,” Mr. Chan said. “There was something about it that was funny, and really cool.”
To Mr. Chan’s surprise, Ms. Manning replied. She was in.
Hours before Ms. Manning pressed play on her first track of the night, Mr. Chan (who also performed) was scuttling around Elsewhere, tweaking feedback on microphones and fussing with strobe lights. Bass thumped like thunder in the empty, cavernous hall, then cut out — technical difficulties.
Around 10:30 p.m., attendees started trickling in, sporting furry leg warmers, mesh tops and elf-ear prosthetics. Some partygoers made a beeline for the dance floor, where they immediately began thrashing to a remix of “How to Save a Life” by the Fray. Others, like Miles Raymer and Callie Richards, a couple who said they had ended up at the rave “kind of by accident,” decided to people watch from the smoking section until Ms. Manning came on at midnight.
“We kind of thought it would be a funny thing to do on our way home from our date in the city,” Ms. Raymer said.
Ms. Raymer, a trans freelance music journalist and critic, has attended raves since the 1990s, but she said she found the event a little strange. “This whole party is really giving internet people IRL,” she said. “There’s a certain kind of awkward coming-out-from-behind-the-screen sort of energy. If you spend a lot of time on social media with a lot of trans girls, there’s a certain kind of nerdy, internet-steeped girl who is very much in the building tonight.”
Thomas Wynne, a veteran Sksksks attendee who sat perched on Elsewhere’s staircase, concurred with Ms. Raymer’s assessment, adding that the party felt a little more “Reddit” than normal.
“It attracted a different clientele from the usual event,” Mr. Wynne said. “If you look at the crowd, you can kind of tell who’s here for Chelsea Manning. Not in a bad way, but it stands out.”
James Ko, an associate creative director in Bushwick who was wearing bright pink boots, was one such attendee. “I love Chelsea,” Mx. Ko said. “I literally wrote her fan mail when she was in jail and everything, so I definitely wanted to support her for her first D.J. event.” (According to Ms. Manning’s Twitter account, Friday night’s event was her first D.J. gig in 15 years.)
Mx. Ko, who is trans and nonbinary, sees Ms. Manning’s life as a story about perseverance on the margins. “She’s a big inspiration in terms of getting out there and living a life that’s defined by her transness but not solely by her transness,” Mx. Ko said. “Her journey is kind of a microcosm of the trans experience. We all go through our own stuff, but to think about being in that kind of isolation and confinement — I think a lot of trans people can identify with that.”
For Ms. Manning, it was a long road back to the dance floor. She was initially arrested in 2010 after providing WikiLeaks, the online intelligence organization founded by Julian Assange, with classified material that included footage of American soldiers chuckling after fatally firing at several civilians, including two Reuters journalists, in a 2007 helicopter attack in Baghdad.
Convicted in 2013 on charges including six counts of violating the Espionage Act and sentenced to 35 years in prison, Ms. Manning spent six years at Fort Leavenworth, a men’s military prison in Kansas, where a struggle to secure gender-affirming care behind bars took a significant toll on her mental health. (Ms. Manning tried to end her own life twice while incarcerated at Fort Leavenworth.)
In 2017, President Barack Obama commuted all but four months of Ms. Manning’s remaining prison sentence, an act of clemency sharply criticized by several prominent Republicans at the time. She was jailed again, for 10 months, in 2019 for refusing to testify before a grand jury investigating WikiLeaks.
At Elsewhere, however, not everyone was aware of Ms. Manning’s extraordinary journey to the Bushwick nightclub. Passing through the rooftop bar, a group of men attending Elsewhere’s other party that night could be overheard explaining Ms. Manning’s significance to one another. (“So she’s, like, Julian Assange? It’s like if Assange was D.J.ing right now? I’m there for it.”)
Around 12:30, the crowd erupted as Ms. Manning stepped into the D.J. booth. Over a pulsing beat, a disembodied voice intoned: “What is reality? Can you describe your way to joy and connection? What is love? Show me love. Tonight, in this house, we begin the third summer of love.” When the beat dropped, the dance floor let out a collective yowl as the music picked up speed.
Ms. Manning played Charli XCX. She played drum and bass. She remixed the theme music from the HBO show “Succession.”
“I had a feeling that she was going to play transgirl-video-game-nightcore-hyperpop music, and it kind of delivered,” said David Yoakum, a partygoer who was there to support a D.J. who performs as Swan Meat, scheduled to close out the night. “I think it was great.”
Backstage in the green room, Ms. Manning had gained a new fan. “She was so good,” D4rkcircles proclaimed. “Major queen.”
As the red digital clock on the D.J. booth ticked past 3 in the morning, Swan Meat, dressed in an anime-printed bodysuit, was having a cigarette to ready herself for her set. “It’s really cool to be part of a burgeoning scene, post-Covid,” she said through tobacco smoke. “I may be playing to an empty room as people clear out, but it’s still fabulous.”
By David Montgomery, August 26, 2022https://www.nytimes.com/2022/08/26/us/texas-prisons-heat-air-conditioning.html
Ismael Carrillo Gomez’s hands turned red as a result of the extreme heat in the jail. Credit...Verónica G. Cárdenas for The New York Times
EDINBURG, Texas — Rashes from heat are common. Metal furniture is hot to the touch. Hyperthermia and dehydration are a constant risk, mitigated with fans, tepid water and wet towels. Deaths, though rare, have occurred.
This is life during much of the summer inside Texas’ stifling prisons, a majority of which have no air-conditioning for inmates despite increasingly extreme temperatures in the state.
For the men locked inside the dormitories of Lopez State Jail, dripping and desperate, a record-setting heat wave this summer created a feeling of misery bordering on hopelessness.
“It feels like you’re walking around in hell,” said Gary Crawford, a 44-year-old inmate from Houston who wore a sleeveless undershirt in the dormitory he shares with dozens of other inmates on a day when the temperature in the jail had reached 91 degrees.
On a recent weekday inside the minimum-security facility about 30 miles from the Mexico border, inmates draped yellow “cooling towels” around their necks and wiped away beads of sweat from their arms and faces.
“Everybody is always on edge,” said David Guerra, 42, from San Antonio, who has been at Lopez for nearly a year.
Texas, one of at least 13 states without fully air-conditioned housing in its prison systems, has faced costly lawsuits and scathing criticism for failing to provide its inmates with relief from withering indoor temperatures at a time when lingering heat waves have become an ever-more-relentless feature of Texas summers.
The state is coming off its second hottest summer on record, with an average daily temperature of 97.4 degrees. The area around the Lopez State Jail in Edinburg experienced 48 days of 100 degrees or above, according to the state climatologist.
Since 2000, there have been at least 17 heat-related deaths in Texas prisons, including 10 during a heat wave in 2011, according to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. The last documented prison death was in 2012. This year, 12 inmates and 21 employees have suffered heat-related illnesses, prison officials said, although some inmates’ family members and supporters said they believed the number of heat-related illnesses was higher.
Although the Texas prison system has undergone court-mandated reforms, new prisons have not received extra funding for air-conditioning, prison officials said. There has been little political momentum in the state’s conservative Legislature to spend tax dollars on air-conditioning for inmates.
However, the state does require some inmates to have air-conditioning: those housed in jails run by the counties, which often house inmates who are awaiting trial. The Texas Commission on Jail Standards, a state agency, requires that all county jails keep the temperature from 65 to 85 degrees. But that standard does not apply to state-run prisons.
As a result, only one out of every three prisons in Texas is fully air-conditioned.
The New York Times was granted access to the Lopez jail this month during a state lawmaker’s fact-finding tour, a rare look inside a system that normally is closed to visitors.
“We can do better,” State Representative Terry Canales, a Democrat whose district includes the Lopez jail. He toured the prison ahead of the next legislative session, with plans to introduce new legislation on prison air-conditioning. A bill he introduced in 2021 passed the Texas House of Representatives but died in the Senate; both chambers are controlled by Republicans.
The Texas Department of Criminal Justice, which oversees the state’s 98 correctional facilities and its roughly 120,000 inmates, has a plan to completely air-condition prisons by the end of the decade at a cost of $1.1 billion. But it has yet to secure the funding from the Legislature.
Inside Lopez, there is air-conditioning in the hallways, but not in the dormitories that house inmates. Entering one from the cool hallway means confronting a withering blast of heat and humidity of the sort most people only experience climbing into a car parked in the sun on an extremely hot day.
During the visit, inmates were visibly sweating. Ismael Carrillo Gomez, a 32-year-old from San Antonio, displayed what he said was heat-related redness on his hands as he stood near his bunk without a shirt — a violation of the rules, though one that officials said was not enforced. (“If they need to take off their shirt, we’re not going to be writing disciplinary cases for that,” said Jason Clark, chief of staff of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.)
Industrial fans were placed on the floors and ceilings as part of the state’s “heat mitigation” strategy, but inmates, who sleep on bunk beds and mingle in an open area with benches and tables, complained the fans only recirculated hot air. Lights in the dormitory were intermittently turned off during the day, an apparent attempt to reduce heat.
Inmates can request to be taken to “respite” areas in air-conditioned sections of the prison, and officials said they had access to ice and water. How often such requests for respite are granted was not immediately clear, but Texas Prisons Community Advocates, an inmate support group, said it had reports of inmates who asked to go to respite but were not allowed.
The men described the heat and humidity as a constant drain on their psyche, emotions and outlook, making them irritable and moody and raising the prospect for fights. A good night’s sleep is a rarity, they said. Some preferred to sleep on the floor where it was cooler.
“Nobody is going to say there was a fight because you got frustrated because of the heat,” said Mr. Guerra. “It’s always going to be another issue that led to it. But the heat provokes it.”
J. David Goodman contributed reporting.
"Astronomical corporate profits confirm what corporate executives have been telling us on earning calls over and over again: They're making a lot of money by charging people more."
By Jake Johnson, August 26, 2022
Medical professionals, medical students, ACT UP New York, and their supporters protested outside Pfizer's headquarters in New York City on March 3, 2019. (Photo: Erik McGregor/LightRocket via Getty Images)
Federal data published Thursday shows that nonfinancial corporate profits in the U.S. surged to an all-time record of $2 trillion in the second quarter of 2022 as companies continued jacking up prices, pushing inflation to a 40-year high to the detriment of workers and consumers.
According to figures released by the Commerce Department's Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA), corporate profit margins over the past three months were the widest they've been since the 1950s as ongoing price hikes pad the bottom lines of large businesses—and eat into the paychecks of employees.
"We can argue until the cows come home about the cause of inflation," Chris Becker, senior economist at the Groundwork Collaborative, wrote in response to the new data. "But we can't lose sight of the basic moral point that it is outrageous that corporations are seeing skyrocketing profits while purchasing power for so many American households is declining."
Bloomberg noted Thursday that "with household budgets squeezed by the rising cost of living, some firms have been able to offset any slip in demand by charging more to the customers they've retained."
"Across the economy, adjusted pretax corporate profits increased 6.1% in the April-to-June period from the prior quarter—the fastest pace in a year—after falling 2.2% in the first three months of the year," the outlet continued. "Profits are up 8.1% from a year earlier."
Rakeen Mabud, the Groundwork Collaborative's chief economist, said in a statement that the "astronomical corporate profits confirm what corporate executives have been telling us on earning calls over and over again: They're making a lot of money by charging people more, and they don't plan on bringing prices down anytime soon."
"Corporate profiteering continues in full force—and all of us are paying the price," Mabud added. "This data should be a wake-up call for policymakers. Megacorporations are a key driver of high prices—and we need bold action to rein them in."
The BEA numbers came after oil companies, food giants, and other major businesses reported record-shattering profits in the second quarter of this year as they take advantage of Russia's war on Ukraine, the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, and supply chain disruptions to drive up prices.
According to one recent analysis, the profits of eight top oil companies—including Chevron, ExxonMobil, and Shell—are up 235% compared to last year.
"The glaringly obvious takeaway from this new data is that market power is a key driver of rising prices," said Sarah Miller, executive director of the American Economic Liberties Project. "Policymakers need to use this new information—which confirms what working families across the country know all too well—to attack concentrated corporate power immediately and aggressively across the board."
"That means levying excess profits taxes, ensuring big penalties for price-fixing, and resourcing enforcement agencies to prosecute price-gouging and other forms of corporate abuse," Miller added. "And it means banning large mergers, stock buybacks, and 'payoffs for layoffs' to help build durable market power for working people and consumers and level the playing field for small businesses and entrepreneurs."
The newly enacted Inflation Reduction Act includes a corporate minimum tax, limited drug-pricing reforms, and a small levy on stock buybacks, but experts say the measure by itself is unlikely to meaningfully curtail companies' power to set prices as they please for the benefit of their executives and shareholders.
The Federal Reserve, meanwhile, appears poised to continue hiking interest rates aggressively in its bid to tame inflation, risking mass layoffs and a recession that would disproportionately harm ordinary people.
"While corporations enjoy record profits and CEOs get millions more in bonuses, workers are still waiting in vain for better working conditions and working families are still reeling from the immoral price-gougers who jacked up their expenses under the guise of inflation," said Helen Brosnan, executive director of Fight Corporate Monopolies.
"Our politicians have a choice: stand up to corporate monopolies and their corrupting influence or stand by while they take advantage of working people trying to pay their bills," Brosnan continued. "Until then, it's fair for voters to continue to wonder whose side you're on, and whose interests you're protecting."
Increasingly, anxious and depressed teens are using multiple, powerful psychiatric drugs, many of them untested in adolescents or for use in tandem.
By Matt Richtel, Photographs by Annie Flanagan, Aug. 27, 2022
Doctors often “scramble to help a kid who is in their office,” but the lack of clear evidence about what drugs work can lead to educated guesswork and prescription of multiple medications, one expert said.
One morning in the fall of 2017, Renae Smith, a high school freshman on Long Island, N.Y., could not get out of bed, overwhelmed at the prospect of going to school. In the following days, her anxiety mounted into despair.
“I should have been happy,” she later wrote. “But I cried, screamed and begged the universe or whatever godly power to take away the pain of a thousand men that was trapped inside my head.”
Intervention for her depression and anxiety came not from the divine but from the pharmaceutical industry. The following spring, a psychiatrist prescribed Prozac. The medication offered a reprieve from her suffering, but the effect dissipated, so she was prescribed an additional antidepressant, Effexor.
A medication cascade had begun. During 2021, the year she graduated, she was prescribed seven drugs. These included one for seizures and migraines — she experienced neither, but the drug can be also used to stabilize mood — and another to dull the side effects of the other medications, although it is used mainly for schizophrenia. She felt better some days but deeply sad on others.
Her senior yearbook photo shows her smiling broadly, “but I felt terrible that day,” said Ms. Smith, who is now 19 and attends a local community college. “I’ve gotten good at wearing a mask.”
She had come to exemplify a medical practice common among her generation: the simultaneous use of multiple heavy-duty psychiatric drugs.
Psychiatrists and other clinicians emphasize that psychiatric drugs, properly prescribed, can be vital in stabilizing adolescents and saving the lives of suicidal teens. But, these experts caution, such medications are too readily doled out, often as an easy alternative to therapy that families cannot afford or find, or aren’t interested in.
These drugs, generally intended for short-term use, are sometimes prescribed for years, even though they can have severe side effects — including psychotic episodes, suicidal behavior, weight gain and interference with reproductive development, according to a recent study published in Frontiers in Psychiatry.
Moreover, many psychiatric drugs commonly prescribed to adolescents are not approved for people under 18. And they are being prescribed in combinations that have not been studied for safety or for their long-term impact on the developing brain.
A Medication Cascade
Renae Smith’s psychiatric records mention varying doses of at least 10 medications, some of which are not approved for treating depression in adolescents.
2013–17: Renae was in grades 4–9
2018: Grades 9–10
2019: Grades 10–11
· Effexor XR
· Effexor XR
2020: Grades 11–12
· Focalin XR
· Focalin XR
Note: The list shows tablet and capsule sizes mentioned in Renae’s records, by prescription date. Some prescriptions were for multiple doses a day, and some extended into the years that followed.
“You can very cogently argue that we don’t have evidence about what it means to be on multiple psychotropic medications,” said Lisa Cosgrove, a clinical psychologist at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. “This is a generation of guinea pigs.”
A study published in 2020 in the journal Pediatrics found that 40.7 percent of people ages 2 to 24 who were prescribed a drug for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder were also prescribed at least one other medication for depression, anxiety, or another mood or behavioral disorder. The study found more than 50 different psychotropic medicines prescribed in such combinations, and a review by The New York Times found that roughly half of the drugs were not approved for use in adolescents, although doctors have discretion to prescribe as they see fit.
Express Scripts, a mail-order pharmacy, recently reported that prescriptions of antidepressants for teenagers rose 38 percent from 2015 to 2019, compared with 12 percent for adults. Prozac and Lexapro are the only medicines approved for teens with depression, according to the Food and Drug Administration, while antidepressants in general carry a “black box warning” about increased risk of suicide for adolescents.
Public health officials first grew concerned about the problem of multiple medication use, or polypharmacy, a decade ago, when it emerged among young people in foster care and low-income settings. Legislative reforms were passed to curb the practice in those settings, but it has since widened to include affluent and middle-class families.
“It’s gone mainstream,” said Julie Zito, professor of pharmacy and psychology at the University of Maryland.
‘Not a Coherent Regimen’
Ms. Smith’s diagnoses began with inattention.
In fourth grade, she struggled in school and her family sought the help of a psychiatrist, who prescribed Focalin for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, an increasingly common diagnosis. Looking back at his own high-school days in the early 1980s, her father, Kevin Smith, wonders if he too had suffered from A.D.H.D. He “just zoned out,” he recalled. “It drove my dad nuts.”
Mr. Smith coped a different way, by playing sports, being outdoors and, sometimes, drinking. But his troubles were seen by his own father as a character flaw. “He’d say, ‘Go get in that room, and I’ll hit you a couple of times with the belt. That’ll straighten you out,’” Mr. Smith said.
He vowed not to let his own children suffer any mental health issue unaddressed. “I try vigorously to give Renae all the tools she needs to combat it,” he said.
In eighth grade Ms. Smith showed signs of depression. “Instead of going to class, I’d go to the guidance counselor and cry for the whole period,” she said. She ventured reasons: Her father’s landscaping business struggled; there were challenges inside the family; she felt pressure to make it to a big-name university, which she saw as the only path to security and happiness. Without entry to a good college, she feared, “I’ll work in a supermarket the rest of my life.”
Her search to feel better led her and her family to various treatments and, eventually, to use of multiple drug prescriptions.
In 2018, in the spring of her freshman year, she visited New Horizon Counseling Center on Long Island. According to her psychiatrist’s notes, which she shared with The Times, Ms. Smith reported experiencing increased anxiety, depression and suicidal ideation. “She agreed to try a small dose of Prozac (10 mg) once a day together with individual therapy,” the doctor wrote. New Horizon did not respond to inquiries from The Times regarding Ms. Smith’s case.
In 10th grade, the same psychiatrist added a prescription for Effexor, an antidepressant that is not approved by the F.D.A. for use in adolescents and that puts teens at increased risk for suicidal behavior and hindered growth.
Later in the year, the psychiatrist added a prescription for Abilify, an antipsychotic drug that is sometimes prescribed for mood disorders but is intended primarily for schizophrenia, which Ms. Smith did not have. He replaced her Prozac with a different antidepressant. Despite the prescriptions, she said, she felt only periods of relief but ultimately became depressed again.
In May 2020, during the pandemic and 11th grade, Ms. Smith sought treatment at the Mental Health Clinic at Mather Hospital; her original talk therapist had left New Horizon, she said, and her new one there was often over-scheduled and unavailable.
She was prescribed Lamictal at Mather, and then again at New Horizons. “I think it’s a mood stabilizer, I’m not sure,” she said.
Lamictal is primarily intended for adults with bipolar disorder and seizures, neither of which Ms. Smith had been diagnosed with, although some studies have shown its effectiveness in treating other mood disorders. But the drug comes with a black box warning about dangerous skin rashes that in rare cases are life-threatening, noting: “The rate of serious rash is greater in pediatric patients than in adults.”
In December 2020, Ms. Smith started dialectical behavior therapy, an offshoot of cognitive behavioral therapy, at Hofstra University. But the treatment did not involve a psychiatrist to oversee and coordinate medication; in that absence, New Horizons continued to prescribe Ms. Smith’s drugs.
The drug regimen mounted. Over the course of her high school years, Ms. Smith was prescribed 10 different psychotropic medications, not always simultaneously but in overlapping periods, her medical records show.
In 2021, the year she graduated, New Horizon was prescribing her seven: Focalin; Trintellix; alprazolam, an anti-anxiety drug known to be addictive; Lamictal and Topamax, a combination of seizure and migraine medication that can be used to stabilize mood; Rexulti, an “add-on” drug for adults who have major depressive disorder; and olanzapine, a drug used mainly for bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. (Ms. Smith said she was told that olanzapine would dull the side effects of the other medications and help her sleep.)
“I can’t think of any disorder that would result in her being on all these classes of medications,” said Dr. Mark Olfson, clinical psychiatrist at Columbia University and one of several experts whom The Times consulted about Ms. Smith’s drug regimen. They all expressed similar concerns. “It’s not a coherent regimen,” Dr. Olfson said.
But, he added, the practice of overprescribing was common among doctors: “When they’re searching for something that makes the patient symptom-free, they create problems that can result in what is politely called pharmaceutical misadventure.”
The Rise of Polypharmacy
The path toward polypharmacy often starts with drugs that are used to treat A.D.H.D. The condition is the “foundation of polypharmacy,” said Dr. David Lohr, a child psychiatrist at the University of Louisville and the medical director for the Department for Community Based Services, which oversees Kentucky’s child welfare system.
A.D.H.D. medications are prescribed widely and considered to be a relatively risk-free way to improve focus. But Dr. Lohr explained that when one medication doesn’t resolve all the issues — or when new ones crop up — parents and doctors can be quick to add additional medications instead of relying on nonpharmacological solutions such as therapy. And A.D.H.D. drugs can have side effects, including sleeplessness, that doctors sometimes treat with additional prescriptions.
New psychiatric drug options began flooding onto the market in the 1980s, with the introduction of second-generation antipsychotics and new classes of antidepressants known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors. Another class, serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors, came in the 1990s.
A nationwide study published in 2006 examined records of visits to doctors’ offices by people younger than 20 and found a sharp rise in office visits involving the prescription of antipsychotic drugs — to 1.2 million in 2002 from 200,000 in 1993. The drugs increasingly were prescribed in combinations, particularly among low-income children. Between 2004 and 2008, a national study of children enrolled in Medicaid found that 85 percent of patients on an antipsychotic drug were also prescribed a second medication, with the highest rates among disabled youngsters and those in foster care.
Moreover, “the meds don’t work all that well,” said Dr. Robert Hilt, a psychiatrist at the University of Washington. He noted that studies have shown only a modest upside for some of the major classes of medications, including antidepressants, prescribed to adolescents.
Dr. Joshua Gordon, director of the National Institute of Mental Health, said that doctors often “scramble to help a kid who is in their office,” but that the lack of clear evidence about what drugs work can lead to educated guesswork and prescription of multiple medications. “Why kids end up on multiple medications is because we don’t have the medications that are really working for them,” he said. “All of it suggests we need more research.”
Nonetheless, many experts emphasized that the proper use of the right medications can be essential in helping to stabilize an adolescent who is clinically anxious, depressed, self-harming, suicidal or inattentive.
“Medication is important,” said Dr. Stephanie Kennebeck, a pediatric emergency room doctor at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital who has studied therapeutic approaches to suicidal impulses. Also vital, she said, was “knowing that medication has its limitations. Therapy is the cornerstone of what we try to get kids into.”
Polypharmacy became even more common after 2013, when the clinical definition of A.D.H.D. was updated and broadened. Previously, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the standard reference for the diagnosis of thousands of medical conditions, stated that an A.D.H.D. diagnosis applied if the patient exhibited “some hyperactive-impulsive or inattentive symptoms that caused impairment.”
In 2013, the requirement for impairment was dropped, among other changes that together “led to significantly increased diagnosis,” according to an analysis in The Journal of the American Medical Association. By 2015 to 2016, 13.1 percent of adolescents ages 12 to 17 were diagnosed with A.D.H.D., according to the journal’s analysis.
Instances of polypharmacy do not always begin with a diagnosis of A.D.H.D. Last summer, Jean, 22, who is being identified by her middle name to protect her privacy, grew increasingly agitated and depressed before her senior year in college.
By April of this year she was taking seven psychiatric medicines. They included lamotrigine, an anti-epileptic drug used for mood; hydroxyzine, gabapentin and propranolol for anxiety; escitalopram, an antidepressant; mirtazapine to treat major depressive disorder; and lithium carbonate, for general mood disorders, although it is also used to treat bipolar disorder, which Jean has not been diagnosed with.
Later that month, Jean confided in group counseling that she thought she might be suicidal. She was subsequently prescribed three more medications, including quetiapine, an antipsychotic used to treat schizophrenia, among other disorders.
When Jean went to the pharmacy to pick up the full array of psychiatric prescriptions, the pharmacist stepped out from behind the counter.
“Are you sure?” the pharmacist asked, according to Jean’s parents. “Is this all for you?”
Some health experts worry that in some cases, psychiatric drugs are being prescribed to dull the angst that is part of adolescence. The result is “the medicalization of adolescence,” Dr. Zito, of the University of Maryland, said.
“It’s runaway,” she said.
A New Outlook
In October of 2021, doctors discovered cancer in Ms. Smith’s thyroid. Surgery to remove the tumor was scheduled for this past April.
Over the winter, she found a new psychiatrist who, Ms. Smith said, could spend more time with her than her psychiatrist at New Horizon had been able to do.
Ms. Smith said that under the care of the new psychiatrist, she began cutting back on the drug regimen she had previously been prescribed. By the time of her surgery, she was down to two daily psychiatric drugs, one for A.D.H.D. and one for depression, and also took an anti-anxiety pill once a week or so when symptoms flared.
Her new psychiatrist told her that medications could only do so much. “They help with irrational stress and irrational depression,” Ms. Smith recalled the new doctor telling her, and that “taking antidepressants isn’t going to make you less sad if someone you care about dies.”
The thyroid surgery in April was a success. By midsummer, Ms. Smith said, she felt happier more often. “I do think the medication is working,” she said, but she also credited “internal work,” self-reflection and the cancer diagnosis. It “opened my eyes,” she said. “The things you think are so important just kind of dissipate.”
Her definition of success has changed. too. Whereas she had once thought about “being a doctor or a lawyer or things like that,” she said, now she works in a plant nursery and is applying to a four-year college with a focus on environmental and wildlife sciences.
“I like working with my hands,” Ms. Smith said. “I don’t want to work at a desk, and that’s what I thought I should be doing.” She added, “I’m not the same person that I was a year ago.”
Kerry Lester Kasper contributed reporting.
More than 1,000 have died since mid-June from flooding that a senior official called a “climate-induced humanitarian disaster.”
By Austin Ramzy, Aug. 28, 2022
Rescuing people in Rajanpur district of Punjab Province, Pakistan, on Saturday. Credit...Shahid Saeed Mirza/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
Devastating floods have surged across Pakistan, overflowing riverbanks and bridges, inundating houses and fields and killing more than 100 people this weekend, officials said late Saturday.
The floods, which have been driven by unusually heavy monsoon rains, have killed more than 1,000 people since mid-June, the country’s National Disaster Management Authority said.
Sherry Rehman, Pakistan’s climate change minister, called the flooding a “climate-induced humanitarian disaster” of “epic proportions.”
“It is beyond the capacity of any one administration or government to rehabilitate and even manage the rescue and relief,” she said, calling for greater international assistance. “We need all the help we can get.”
Record flooding has inundated spots all along the Indus River, which runs the length of the country, including at the Tarbela Dam in the north of the country and Kotri, a riverside city more than 600 miles to the south. The Kabul and Swat Rivers in northern Pakistan have also seen extremely high water levels.
Rainfall has been nearly three times the 30-year nationwide average, the disaster agency said Saturday. In Sindh Province, which borders the Arabian Sea to the south, rainfall is nearly five times the average.
Syed Murad Ali Shah, the chief minister of Sindh, said vast areas had been affected by flooding. “It seems like the entire Indus River has overflowed across Sindh,” he told Geo News, a television news broadcaster in Pakistan.
Nearly a million homes have been damaged since mid-June, including more than 260,000 in the past day, the disaster management agency said late Saturday.
More than 33 million people have been affected by flooding this summer, the agency said, with more than 50,000 rescued and close to 500,000 now living in relief camps.
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said, “The magnitude of the calamity is bigger than estimated.” He wrote on Twitter that while a full picture of the destruction was still being compiled, the continuing rain had “caused devastation across the country” with loses comparable to catastrophic flooding in 2010. That disaster affected 18 million people and killed 1,985.
Ms. Rehman posted a video on Twitter from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, a province in the northwest, that showed roaring floodwaters nearing the top of a bridge. The bridge had been rebuilt five meters higher — about 16 feet — after it was destroyed during record flooding in 2010, she said.
“Now the water is inundating the bridge,” she wrote. “They thought they were building back better by raising it much higher.”
Secret Data, Tiny Islands and a Quest for Treasure on the Ocean Floor
Mining in parts of the Pacific Ocean was meant to benefit poor countries, but an international agency gave a Canadian company access to prized seabed sites with metals crucial to the green energy revolution.
By Eric Lipton, Aug. 29, 2022
Mr. Barron rang the Nasdaq bell for his company’s first day of public trading last September. Credit...Ashley Gilbertson for The New York Times
KINGSTON, Jamaica — As demand grows globally for metals needed to make batteries for electric vehicles, one of the richest untapped sources of the raw materials lies two and a half miles beneath the surface of the Pacific Ocean.
This remote section of the seabed, about 1,500 miles southwest of San Diego, could soon become the world’s first industrial-scale mining site in international waters.
The Metals Company, based in Vancouver, has secured exclusive access to tons of seabed rocks packed with cobalt, copper and nickel — enough, it says, to power 280 million electric vehicles, equivalent to the entire fleet of cars in the United States.
The historic climate legislation that Congress passed this month, extending tax credits for buyers of electric cars, will only accelerate the need for these materials as automakers also push forward with plans to phase out production of gasoline-powered vehicles. The Metals Company hopes to build a plant in Texas to process the seabed rocks and has been lobbying for federal assistance to do so.
“No mining has ever been done on a scale like this on the planet,” said James A.R. McFarlane, former head of environmental monitoring at the International Seabed Authority, an agency affiliated with the United Nations that will regulate mining by the Metals Company and the many other businesses and countries expected to follow.
An examination by The New York Times of how the Metals Company is prepared to exploit this new frontier in the green energy revolution — the firm calculates it will clear $31 billion in earnings over the 25-year life of the project — tells the story of a single-minded, 15-year-long courtship of the small Jamaica-based seabed agency that holds the keys to the world’s underwater treasures.
Interviews and hundreds of pages of emails, letters and other internal documents show that the firm’s executives received key information from the Seabed Authority beginning in 2007, giving a major edge to their mining ambitions. The agency provided data identifying some of the most valuable seabed tracts, and then set aside the prized sites for the company’s future use, according to the materials.
The sharing of that information has angered employees at the agency, who said some of the data was meant for developing countries trying to compete with richer countries, something the agency is mandated under international law to assist. “You are violating the legal concept behind the Seabed Authority,” Sandor Mulsow, who held top positions at the agency before leaving in 2019, said in an interview. “It’s scandalous.”
The Metals Company is one of nearly two dozen contractors that have exploration deals with the agency; most of the them are held by nations. But the firm has been especially aggressive in pushing the Seabed Authority to allow it to start mining, and is now racing to begin in late 2024.
The undertaking has raised concerns among environmentalists about the perpetually underfunded agency’s commitment to protecting life on the ocean floor, and has renewed broader questions about who gets to profit from the riches of the sea.
The Seabed Authority was established under the auspices of the United Nations well before climate change set off a surge in demand for the metals. Though it has never gotten off the ground, a unit of the agency was charged with leveling the playing field for developing countries, in part by reserving metal-rich tracts of the ocean floor and helping to mine them.
With jurisdiction over half the planet, the agency’s 50 employees work out of offices here in Jamaica’s capital on a small annual appropriation of $10 million.
The agency has at times been at war with itself, interviews and documents show. Employees have complained about the secretary general’s spending — on travel and a chauffeured luxury car — and sounded alarms about ethical shortcomings, including a revolving door of consultants and staff lawyers who have worked for companies with matters before the agency.
At a meeting of the agency’s governing body last year, a Metals Company contractor was among a group of businesspeople who roamed freely among the international delegates as they debated agenda items, including the firm’s request for the authority to sign off on a plan to test mining equipment. One of the top rule-making bodies at the Seabed Authority, its legal and technical commission, is secretive, meeting behind closed doors, and some of its own members also work for mining contractors, The Times found.
The agency’s relationship with the Metals Company has turned the system on its head in other ways. Developing nations working with the Seabed Authority are supposed to get access to data in certain mining areas before companies do. But the reverse happened: A top executive at the firm got the vital data first, then secured two tiny island nations as sponsors.
Even with those partners — the Pacific islands of Nauru and Tonga, which have a combined population of 120,000 and are nowhere near the mining zone — the firm has maintained nearly complete financial control over the project, including rights to all but a fraction of the anticipated profits.
“This company set out to game the system and use a poor, developing Pacific nation as the conduit to exploit these resources,” said Lord Fusitu’a, a former member of the Tonga parliament. He said he was given less than an hour in 2014 to review regulations the country adopted to join the effort.
The governments of Nauru and Tonga, which declined requests for comment, have lobbied the agency on behalf of the Metals Company. In a letter, Nauru’s president, Lionel Aingimea, told the agency that the mining would help secure a carbon-neutral future and financially benefit his country.
“Nauru is no one’s puppet, I can assure you,” Gerard Barron, the Metals Company’s chief executive, said in an interview.
A law firm retained by the Seabed Authority, often referred to as the I.S.A., rejected the notion that anyone at the agency had acted inappropriately in sharing data or engaging with contractors, and said that all travel and other expenses by the secretary general were fully authorized. The legal and technical commission, the firm said, “meets entirely properly” with its members and exercises independence in its decisions.
“The I.S.A. has not, at any time, improperly or unlawfully shared confidential data,” the firm, Withers Bergman, said in a statement to The Times.
Michael Lodge, the British lawyer who has served as secretary general for nearly six years, and was its legal counsel when the data was shared beginning in 2007, also defended the agency’s actions. Around that time, he said in an interview at the headquarters in December, it publicly released summaries of some data in an effort to draw attention to the seabed’s riches and generate interest in mining, and it welcomed inquiries by potential partners.
Mr. Barron said he was unaware that Nautilus Minerals had gotten access to some mining data before forming partnerships with Nauru and Tonga. (He was an investor in Nautilus, the forerunner company that received the information, and later became chief executive of what is now the Metals Company in 2017, which purchased certain Nautilus assets.) Nonetheless, he acknowledged, the company had rights to what is “generally regarded as some of the best areas out there.” In a filing last year with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the company confirmed it had relied on data twice provided by the agency.
In March, Mr. Barron told Wall Street investors that seabed mining had been made all the more urgent for the United States and its allies because of China’s growing dominance of the cobalt trade and Russia’s role as a major nickel supplier.
As it seeks approval to begin operations, the firm has teamed up with Allseas, an offshore oil industry contractor, Glencore, a mining giant, and Maersk, one of the world’s largest shipping companies. The metals are found in potato-size rocks known as polymetallic nodules, and the firm would suck them up from the ocean floor with a giant underwater vacuum cleaner and transport them to shore.
The biggest hurdle is the enormous task underway at the Seabed Authority to enact the world’s first environmental regulations of deep-sea mining in international waters — and a royalty system to collect revenues from contractors extracting the metals. The effort has been in the works for years but recently accelerated after Nauru, one of the Metals Company’s sponsors, invoked a provision effectively mandating that it wrap up by next year.
The plans to begin mining by the Metals Company and other contractors have generated fierce opposition from some environmental groups, which along with government leaders like President Emmanuel Macron of France have called for a moratorium on mining until scientists can study the remote seabed and better understand the consequences of an industrial-scale operation.
“We have no clue what is going to happen,” said Stefan Bräger, a former Seabed Authority marine biologist who now serves as an adviser to the German government. “It’s like driving on the wrong side of the road at night and turning off your headlights.”
Both Mr. Barron and Mr. Lodge said in interviews that the criticism was unfounded. They said the mining would be for the “benefit of mankind,” as required under the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea, which established the Seabed Authority, and they predicted that it would cause less ecological damage than open-pit mining.
Mr. Lodge mocked his opponents, referring to environmentalist groups as propagandists.
“To say, ‘Don’t harm the ocean’ — it is the easiest message in the world, right? You just have to show a photo of a turtle with a straw in its nose,” he said. “Everybody in Brooklyn can then say, ‘I don’t want to harm the ocean.’ But they sure want their Teslas.”
‘Exclusive Benefit of Mankind’
A miniature replica of the British Royal Navy’s H.M.S. Challenger sits near Mr. Lodge’s office at the Seabed Authority headquarters. The famed ship set sail 150 years ago on an expedition that mapped the ocean floor.
A dredge on that voyage scraped “several peculiar black oval bodies” out of the Pacific, the crew reported in 1873. The polymetallic nodules, small enough to fit in the palm of a hand, had formed over millions of years and contained high concentrations of valuable metals.
A century later, China, Japan, the Soviet Union, the United States and some European nations began exploring a stretch of the ocean between Hawaii and Mexico, known as the Clarion-Clipperton Zone, that has an especially large volume of the nodules.
With no mining rules in place, the U.N. intervened and adopted the Convention on the Law of the Sea, a treaty that went into effect in 1994 and now has been ratified by 167 countries and the European Union. The agreement established the Seabed Authority, granting it exclusive jurisdiction over mining in international waters — those not under the territorial rule of individual countries — and charging it with the creation of a regulatory system.
A delegate from Malta had laid out the mission years earlier during a 1967 speech at the U.N. The seabed should be used “for the exclusive benefit of mankind as a whole,” said the delegate, Arvid Pardo, adding that poorer nations should get “preferential consideration in the event of financial benefits” and that mining should not cause “serious impairment of the marine environment.”
The United States, under President Ronald Reagan, refused to ratify the treaty, insisting, among other things, that it gave too much authority to developing nations and put American businesses at a disadvantage. But the country agreed to act generally in accordance with its provisions, which extend to other activities like shipping, fishing and navigation.
As the rules stand, any nation can seek permission to conduct surveys to identify mining sites, and China, France, India and South Korea, among other richer nations, have done just that. When they find worthy locations, they must hand over half of them to the Seabed Authority, which sets them aside as “reserved areas” where less developed countries can initiate their own projects.
The authority has allocated roughly 200,000 square miles of seabed — larger then the size of California — to developing nations to do exploratory work in the reserved areas, with nearly half of that space now under the control of the Metals Company.
Starting two decades ago, the Seabed Authority began keeping track of the reserved areas with the highest concentration of nodules, based on countries’ proprietary surveys. Some of the data was used for a modeling project that charted the geology of the ocean floor, and its potential for mining, though the public version of that project aggregated the data and did not disclose anything proprietary.
As the agency clarified in a public statement in 2000, detailed sample station data was not to be shared outside the organization. “Data and information ‘of commercial value’ given to the authority by a seabed contractor shall be considered confidential,” it said.
‘Mother Nature’s Gift’
Around the same time, executives at Nautilus Minerals were keenly interested in the reserved areas and turned to the Seabed Authority for help in deciding where to focus their attention, the documents show.
Agency officials held a series of meetings in New York and Jamaica with David Heydon, a geologist who later became Nautilus’s chief executive, and his son Robert, who also worked there, to discuss seabed mining.
Neither Mr. Heydon nor his son, who is now an executive at the Metals Company, responded to requests for comment. A company spokesman also did not respond to questions about them.
In one meeting in 2007, emails and other documents show, the agency’s secretary general at the time, Satya N. Nandan, shared agency records about the reserved areas with the company.
“Thank you for hosting Scott Trebilcock and Robert Heydon in Kingston last month, and providing Nautilus Minerals Inc. (‘Nautilus’) with the opportunity to review data pertaining to the I.S.A.’s Reserved Areas,” David Heydon wrote in a 2007 letter to Mr. Nandan. Mr. Nandan died in 2020.
Mr. Heydon went on to ask that three of the four most promising locations in the reserved areas be set aside for Nautilus while it sought a nation to sponsor its mining ambitions. “Nautilus looks forward to submitting its full application to the I.S.A. early next year once State Sponsorship has been obtained,” he wrote.
Nauru, one of the world’s smallest nations, quickly emerged as a leading candidate for the Heydons, who are from Australia, which previously turned to the island to house its refugees and to mine a mineral used in fertilizer. The country, with just 11,000 people, had only a tiny environmental agency. It also did not demand much in exchange for sponsorship, having no ability of its own to pursue such an undertaking.
Mr. Barron, the Metals Company chief executive, would not say how much money Nauru was on tap to receive. A community leader in Tonga, another island partner, said in an interview that the company had agreed to pay it $2 per ton as a “mining production fee.” That payment would amount to less than half of one percent of the firm’s total estimated value of the mined material. The Metals Company would not confirm this fee.
Separately, the Metals Company would pay an undetermined royalty fee to the Seabed Authority once commercial mining began.
The company, a merger of DeepGreen and the Sustainable Opportunities Acquisition Corporation, was founded in 2021 and markets itself as a publicly traded start-up that views “the climate crisis as the biggest challenge of our time.” Its singular focus is harvesting polymetallic nodules, which it describes as the cleanest source of battery-grade metals on the planet — in shorthand, batteries in a rock.
“It’s just Mother Nature’s gift to us,” Mr. Barron, who was paid $14.2 million in salary and stock options last year, said as he relaxed on a ship that had just returned to San Diego from an exploratory expedition.
‘Sit Down, Shut Up’
The information given to Nautilus, according to an email written by Robert Heydon, included an “Excel spreadsheet supplied by the authority that shows the grade and abundance recorded at specific sample stations.”
Follow-up correspondence from Mr. Heydon and others made clear that they knew they should not be given certain data until they had a contract to partner with a developing nation. But Nautilus requested more information to speed things along.
“As you would be aware it takes quite a few months to put together a large scale exploration campaign,” Mr. Heydon wrote in 2011 to Mr. Lodge, then the agency’s legal counsel.
In his draft reply, Mr. Lodge noted that the Seabed Authority was subject to “certain restrictions on the disclosure of such data to anyone external to the authority.” But in a separate email to colleagues, he suggested there was a path that would allow them to accommodate Mr. Heydon: the public release of summaries of survey data.
Since it had made the summaries public, he reasoned, the agency could share at least some of the data Mr. Heydon had requested.
In another email, an agency employee acknowledged that some of the data provided to Nautilus was supposed to have been “classified,” at least before the company secured a contract to do exploratory work in the reserved areas.
“Here is the entire reserved area data,” Vijay Kodagali, a senior scientific officer, now deceased, wrote in 2012 after a Nautilus consultant asked for another copy of the data provided earlier. “This is supposed to be classified data and not to be disclosed to others.”
Three former senior staff members at the agency and a current member of the Seabed Authority Council, the agency’s governing body, said in interviews that they believed the data sharing in some cases violated agency rules. There was no suggestion that the Metals Company acted improperly in requesting the information.
“There were times that you were just told to sit down, shut up and do what you’re told,” said Mr. McFarlane, who resigned from his post as the authority’s top environmental official in August 2011, several months after questions about the data sharing emerged.
In its statement, Withers Bergman said that the Seabed Authority staff routinely interacted with contractors pursuing mining sites, but reiterated that the agency had always honored data confidentiality rules.
“It is not unusual and is entirely proper and normal practice for the I.S.A. secretariat to engage with contractors to discuss proposals which those contractors have regarding potential applications,” the statement said, “including — as in the case of Nautilus — the contractor providing a confidential indication of the areas under consideration.”
‘Smell the Desperation’
Even with the prized information in hand, the Metals Company has faced concerns among some agency officials that it is dominating a resource not intended for wealthy countries or international mining companies with nominal partners.
The Metals Company has rights to three of the seven exploratory contracts issued by the Seabed Authority in areas reserved for developing nations.
The rules require that the sponsoring nations, in this case Nauru and Tonga, exercise “effective control” over the mining projects so they are not partners in name only. The Metals Company has met this requirement, in part, by setting up nonprofit foundations to oversee operations, but they are controlled by the company, which has just one permanent employee on each island, according to securities filings. Operations are instead run from Australia, Canada and the United States.
The Metals Company secured access to a third reserved area in 2015, sponsored by the central Pacific island of Kiribati.
“These venture-capital-backed companies can smell the desperation in these small island economies,” said Maureen Penjueli, coordinator of the Fiji-based Pacific Network on Globalization, a nonprofit that promotes the rights of Pacific island nations.
Nii Allotey Odunton, a mining engineer from Ghana who served as the Seabed Authority’s secretary general from 2009 to 2016, said that developing nations were left with no choice but to work closely with private contractors, particularly because the unit within the agency meant to facilitate mining was never created.
“The only realistic option for most developing states therefore was to form partnerships with commercial interests that have access to the financial capital and technology necessary to conduct deep-sea exploration,” Mr. Odunton said in a speech at the U.N. in 2011. (He died this year.)
Mr. Barron said the arrangements were good for the islands. “If you look at a nation like Nauru, and if you ask them, ‘Well, what are your other economic development opportunities?’ there’s not a long list,” he said.
Squire Jeremiah, a member of Nauru’s parliament in 2015 when legislation was approved related to the Metals Company, said the firm’s presence in the country was nominal. “They have so far funded a few scholarships and small projects, trying to buy their way in to get us on board,” he said. “But it has not amounted to much.”
A spokesman for the company said it donated a total of $140,600 last year to support community and social programs in Nauru and Tonga. The spokesman added that the contracts left the islands in “effective control” because their environmental agencies have regulatory oversight.
Klaas Willaert, an international maritime lawyer who has served as a Belgian delegate to the Seabed Authority, denounced the arrangements.
“They are relying on a legal loophole here,” Mr. Willaert said. “They have chosen tiny islands to gain access to the reserved areas. It is exactly the opposite of what the law of the sea intended.”
‘Inconsistent Application of Policies’
Chris G. Brown spent several years helping draft mining regulations as an employee and consultant at the agency. He now works as a consultant to Nauru, the Metals Company partner.
Charles Morgan, an environmental scientist, was retained by the authority to study data collected by early explorers of the proposed mining areas. Later, he was hired by a firm whose assets are now controlled by the Metals Company to secure a piece of that data for business purposes.
Nathan Eastwood, a mining industry lawyer at London-based Clifford Chance, took a sabbatical from his law firm last year to help the Seabed Authority draft mining regulations even as he continued to solicit future seabed-mining clients for his firm, the I.S.A. documents and other records show. He did not respond to requests for comment.
In interviews, some staff members said that close industry ties permeated the agency and contributed to a poisonous work environment. Internal emails and surveys also document the discontent.
“The current culture/organizational dynamics have resulted in frustration, resentment, and made the workplace an unpleasant (and often toxic) place to be,” said an email in 2018 that was based on a survey of 31 staff members.
“Breakdowns in communication, lack of transparency, fear of retaliation, not feeling valued, nepotism, clashing personalities, inconsistent application of policies, and often uncertainty around direction and vision (among other things) have contributed to the current state,” it said.
A survey in 2019 reached the “disheartening” conclusion that “many, if not all, of the issues and frustrations you faced a year ago are still present today.”
Employees said they had no way to seek redress. “There is no internal hotline,” Andrew Webster, then a senior executive helping oversee the agency’s budget, wrote in an email in 2019. “No whistleblower hotline.”
In the statement to The Times, the law firm for the authority said that “continuous efforts are being made to ensure the consistent application of policies across the organization.” Since Mr. Lodge took over the agency in 2017, the statement said, he has revamped personnel rules, “successfully and radically improving the working lives and the morale of the I.S.A.’s valued and dedicated employees.”
Mr. Lodge has been a flash point for some. Employees cited the acquisition last year of an Audi SUV to drive him around Kingston even though he had warned months earlier that budget cuts were likely to “seriously impact the Authority’s ability to carry out its operations.”
He also expensed airfare and related bills totaling as much as $50,000 per trip for him and his family to travel on vacations over the last decade as part of authorized home leaves to locations in Asia, according to an agency document.
In the statement, the law firm said that Mr. Lodge’s agency-funded travel and the purchase of the new agency car had all been properly approved and were “fully in line with U.N. standards.”
“The independent auditors examine all expenditures and are required to report any cases of fraud, wasteful or improper expenditure, or expenditure in breach of the rules,” the statement said, “and no such expenditure has ever been reported.”
Some current and former employees said the workplace dysfunction signaled an inability to fulfill the agency’s core mission of benefiting “the common heritage of mankind.”
“The organization simply does not have the capacity necessary to perform such functions,” Van Khanh Nguyen, a finance officer between 2018 and 2020, said in an interview, during which she detailed a series of financial misdeeds she said she observed while at the agency. She was among several former employees who recently filed a personnel complaints with the U.N. “What they care about is their own benefit, and corruption is everywhere.”
‘Dollar Signs in Their Eyes’
Scientists say that more is known about the surface of the moon than about the floor of the ocean, with much of it still unmapped, and estimate that perhaps 90 percent of the species at the bottom of the Pacific remain unclassified.
Worries about that knowledge gap emerged publicly last year when the Metals Company submitted plans to test a new mining machine.
The company had teamed up with Allseas, the offshore oil contractor, to equip a former drill ship with a device resembling a bulldozer that vacuums up nodules. The machine has been tested in the North Sea, but the Metals Company wants a separate trial in the Clarion-Clipperton Zone so it can demonstrate what, it predicts, will be limited consequences for aquatic life as it collects about 3,600 tons of nodules. Ultimately, once commercial mining starts, it intends to extract 1.3 million tons of these rocks a year at its first site.
The Metals Company has pushed ahead with its plans even as the company has shown signs of financial challenges, with its stock price falling from a high of $15.39 last year to a low of 81 cents on Friday.
The company’s request is still under review, having elicited sharp criticism around the world, including from the governments of Britain and Germany, and from some scientists who once held top posts at the Seabed Authority.
These questions echo larger concerns about the harm some scientists fear large-scale seabed mining may cause. The most prominent opponent may be Craig Smith, an oceanographer and former mining industry contractor now at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. He spent nearly five years at sea and in Antarctica studying marine life, and his research has singled out the Clarion-Clipperton Zone as something worth preserving.
“It’s just not possible to do this without essentially destroying one of the largest wilderness areas left,” said Dr. Smith, citing the potential impact of 17 different mining projects in the area, including the three contracts held by the Metals Company. Dr. Smith was hired to evaluate the environmental effects of seabed mining by the South Korean government and Lockheed Martin, the American contractor, which are considering projects of their own.
“These are some of the most pristine, biodiverse habitats on a planet where we already have a biodiversity crisis because of destruction on land,” he said.
Mr. McFarlane, the former head of environmental monitoring at the Seabed Authority, suggested that the Metals Company was intentionally playing down the threat.
“I’ve listened to his greenwashing,” Mr. McFarlane said of Mr. Barron, the chief executive. “This guy is slick, but he is like a lot of people who see dollar signs in their eyes.”
Mr. Barron said that such criticism was off base and that his project was extremely important to the future health of the planet: “This could be one of those projects that could really make a difference — that could really move the needle.”
His company’s most immediate request is for approval to test its new nodule collector. After pushback from governments and environmental groups about its proposal, the company supplemented its filing with the Seabed Authority with additional environmental data.
“Picking up the nodules from the seabed has to be accomplished with the maximum efficiency and minimum disturbance,” Jon Machin, a former offshore-drilling executive who now serves as the company’s head of engineering, said at a briefing in June.
The effort, according to the company, would include a continuous environmental monitoring system that would allow the crew to redirect the mining if sediment plumes or other harm occurs.
In an interview, Mr. Lodge lashed out at the scientists voicing concerns, suggesting there was a “very incestuous” financial relationship between them and the environmental activist groups.
“If you spend your whole life studying the worms that live on nodules, then you get very attached to that,” Mr. Lodge said. “And I’m not sure that they really see the woods for the trees. The broader issue is: Where are you going to get these minerals from?”
The Seabed Authority, nonetheless, has taken significant steps to limit harm, including setting aside about 40 percent of the Clarion-Clipperton Zone, 760,000 square miles, as areas where mining will not be allowed.
At the meeting of the authority’s governing council in December, proponents and opponents of the Metals Company’s plans reached a compromise to speed up the review of the comprehensive seabed mining rules, sticking with the firm’s proposed timeline to start commercial operations as early as 2024.
“Consensus means that everybody is slightly unhappy,” Mr. Lodge told the council.
My New York Times Comment:
This is infuriating. Let's not kid ourselves, this venture has nothing to do whatsoever with "benefiting mankind" and everything to do with making huge profits for a handful of CEOs. Meanwhile, everything that is built and sold for profit is designed to break down—be "unfixable"—so we must buy the product again and again. It's unconscionable! These electric cars are not built to last either. Production for private profit inevitably leads to the exploitation and destruction of our environment and poverty for most of humanity. If the system of capitalism continues much longer, we are doomed! Production for human needs and the health of our planet, not profit, is our only hope.
—Bonnie Weinstein, August 29, 2022