Leonard Peltier’s Walk to Justice Demands Release of Political Prisoner
Minneapolis, Minnesota – On September 1, Leonard Peltier’s Walk to Justice departed from Minneapolis, Minnesota. The march will pass through multiple cities, finally ending in Washington, DC on November 14. Rallies and prayer sessions will be held along the route. The walk is being coordinated by the American Indian Movement Grand Governing Council to demand elder Leonard Peltier’s release from federal prison.
Leonard Peltier’s fight for justice
Leonard Peltier has been unjustly held as a political prisoner by the U.S. government for over 46 years, making him one of the world’s longest incarcerated political prisoners. He is the longest held Native American political prisoner in the world. Peltier was wrongly convicted and framed for a shooting at Oglala on June 26, 1975.
At the time, members of the Lakota Nation on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation were being endlessly terrorized and targeted by paramilitaries led by the corrupt, U.S.-government backed tribal chairman Dick Wilson. 64 people were killed by these paramilitaries between 1973 and 1975. The Lakota people called on the American Indian Movement (AIM) for protection, and Peltier answered the call. During the night of June 26, 1975, plainclothes FBI officers raided the AIM encampment at Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. A shootout ensued, and two FBI officers, Jack Coler and Ronald Williams, and one Native man, Joe Stuntz, were left dead.
In the ridiculous trial that followed, the two other Native defendants, Bob Robideau and Dino Butler, were completely exonerated. Peltier, on the other hand, was used to make an example. The FBI coerced a statement from a Native woman who had never met Peltier at the time she gave her statement. This false evidence was used to extradite Peltier from Canada, where he had fled after the shootout, and is used to imprison Peltier to this day.
The struggle continues
Leonard’s true “crime” is daring to fight back against the everyday oppression Native people face under the imperialist regime of the United States. Growing up on the Turtle Mountain Indian Reservation in North Dakota, Leonard lived through the U.S. government’s genocidal programs to forcibly assimilate Native peoples. Recently, Peltier opened up about his experiences in the Wahpeton Indian School. This was one of many boarding schools used to brutalize Native children into leaving behind their culture. Children were beaten constantly, especially for practicing any portions of their culture or speaking their language. Many didn’t make it out alive. This was part of the U.S. government‘s larger policy of intensifying attacks on the sovereignty of the First Nations. These experiences, among many more, led Peltier to become a member of the American Indian Movement to continue the fight back against genocide of Native peoples.
Peltier is a lifelong liberation fighter who has sacrificed immensely for the movement. He is also a 77-year-old elder with numerous chronic health problems, exacerbated by his fight with COVID earlier this year. Despite his innocence and health problems, the U.S. government has refused repeated calls for clemency for Peltier. Throughout his years of imprisonment, many have demanded Peltier’s freedom, including Nelson Mandela and, most recently, a UN Human Rights Council working group.
The time for Leonard Peltier to finally be released from prison is now. Join the fight to free Leonard Peltier, and to free all political prisoners!
There are many ways to support the march and strengthen the call to free Peltier. These include:
· Joining all or part of the walk
· Joining a rally
· Sponsoring the caravan with a hot prepared meal
· Dry food donations
· Hosting lodging/camping
· Driving a support vehicle
· Raising awareness of Peltier’s cause locally
· Promoting the caravan and rally
Monetary donations (can be sent via PayPal here)
Those interested in volunteering with the caravan can sign up here.
Learn more about Leonard Peltier and his case here:
—Liberation News, September 3, 2022
The World Stands with Cuba
U.N. General Assembly Votes 185-2 (U.S. and Israel)
to Condemn U.S. Blockade
For the 30th consecutive time, the United Nations General Assembly voted overwhelmingly yesterday in support of a resolution calling for the lifting of the U.S. Blockade of Cuba. The final vote this year was 185 countries in favor of the resolution, just two — the United States and its loyal ally Israel — voting against, and two others, Ukraine and Brazil, abstaining. Brazil is of course, in the final days of control by the right-wing Bolsonaro government. Next year we know that a Lula-led government will join the vote in favor of the resolution. Colombia, which abstained last year, voted Yes to Cuba this year, thanks to its new progressive government.
As usual, Cuba's Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez delivered an eloquent denunciation of the blockade, carefully enumerating not only the immense financial damage that has been done to the Cuban economy, but also the far-reaching effects it has on all Cuban society. You can watch the speech of Cuba's Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla here. The U.S. representative delivered the usual hypocritical talk about its "concern" for the Cuban people; afterwards, Cuba exercised its right to reply and delivered a stinging rebuke to the U.S. You can watch that speech here.
The debate at the United Nations was accompanied by demonstrations in cities across the United States in the week preceding the vote. Thursday's demonstration in San Francisco on the day of the vote, with more than a dozen organizations, is seen below. Check our Twitter feed and follow us! (@CubaVenezCte) for videos of the action.
Read Cuba's Annual Report on the Effects of the Blockade
Every year, Cuba releases a detailed report outlining the damaging effects of the U.S. Blockade on the Cuban economy and on the Cuban people. In economic terms alone, just since President Joe Biden took office, the Cuban economy has suffered $6.4 Billion worth of damages. Read the full report here (pdf):
Support the Hatuey Project
The Hatuey Project is continuing its fundraising efforts to offer our solidarity to Cuba as it continues to recover from the extensive damage caused by Hurricane Ian, recovery efforts which are of course hampered by the U.S. Blockade. Please contribute what you can here. All donations are tax-deductible:
Cuba and Venezuela Solidarity Committee
415-821-6545 * email@example.com
Formerly the National Committee to Free the Cuban Five (U.S.)
Cuba and Venezuela Solidarity Committee | 2969 Mission St., San Francisco, CA 94110
Freedom for Mumia Abu-Jamal Update
The struggle continues!
At 12:45pm October 26, 2022, a proposed order denying Mumia Abu-Jamal’s constitutional claims of jury bias and suppressed evidence was issued by Common Pleas court Judge Lucretia Clemons.
Abu-Jamal’s defense petition included newly discovered evidence that had been buried in the prosecutor’s own files. This evidence documented key witnesses receiving promises of money for their testimony and evidence of favorable treatment in pending criminal cases. The petition also documented the abhorrent and unconstitutional practice of striking Black jurors during Mumia’s original trial.
Racism remains the ELEPHANT in the room.
“I am going to help them fry the n---word”--Original trial court Judge Albert Sabo said this in front of court clerk Terri Maurer Carter and fellow Common Pleas Court judge Richard Kline during the first week of Mumia’s 1982 trial.
Philadelphia ADA Jack McMahon made the policy clear in a 1986 training tape stating that getting “a competent, fair and impartial jury. Well, that's ridiculous,'…“You don't want smart people. But if you're sitting down and you're going to take Blacks, you want older Blacks." https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ag2I-L3mqsQ
If you put thick blinders on that block out all reality and rely on procedural minutia for cover, honestly, it is still impossible to avoid the scorchingly blatant racism of trial judge Albert Sabo, Assistant District Attorney Joseph McGill, Mayor and former police chief Frank Rizzo, District Attorney during Mumia’s trial Ed Rendell, and Ron Castille DA on appeal.
Yesterday, Judge Lucretia Clemons in her oral statements from the bench continued a common practice of adopting wholesale the Philadelphia District Attorney’s positions. These positions only seek to preserve convictions at all costs. These arguments prevent the defense from putting on the record evidence of discrimination. PCRA procedural rules such as time bar, due diligence, waiver, previously litigated, all avoid a judicial review of the merits.
The racism is so transparent and indefensible so the DA is using court created law to dismiss cases before hearing new suppressed evidence. This is a blatantly dishonest practice routinely used by the prosecution and the courts when everyone knows, and I mean everyone knows, that racism was a hallmark of the original trial.
Striking Blacks from the Jury
Judge Clemons stated that she was dismissing the claim of striking Black jurors on procedural grounds, without addressing the merits of the claim. She suggested that former counsel for the defense had not sought prosecutor McGill’s previously buried notes (notes that highlight his impermissible race based tracking and discrimination). Clemons adopts the prosecution position that the defense had the opportunity to receive these notes by merely asking the prosecution or cross examining ADA McGill in prior court proceedings. This is a key and deliberate misreading of the record. At no time were these crucial notes and the motivations that guided ADA McGill ever available to the defense. McGill struck Black jurors at a 71% rate, significantly higher than the strike rate for white jurors. His reasons for seating some white jurors and not seating nonwhite jurors were not on the record, they were in his notes.
One only has to look at the McMann training tapes that were made by the Philadelphia DA’s office which instructed district attorney’s how to strike black jurors. These were made after Mumia’s trial but they document the practice which was the norm in the office. This is the context for this ruling which misstates the record and ignores the reality in these Philadelphia courtrooms. Judge Lucretia Clemons and her law clerks complained on the record about how long it took them to find Pennsylvania cites to bolster their opinion. Why is Judge Clemons working so hard to avoid the elephant in the room?
Suborning Perjury: Paying Witnesses
Additionally, at issue is the note from supposed “eye witness” Robert Chobert that asked ADA McGill after the trial “where is the money that is owe to me?” This note was scrubbed from any filings and buried by the prosecution for 40 years. This dramatic “Brady evidence” previously unavailable to the defense, was dismissed by the Judge in her written opinion as not “being material.” Meaning it would not have affected the jury’s verdict. Underlying this is the wholesale adoption of the credibility determinations of the original trial court judge Albert “I am going to help them fry the n---word” Sabo. It allows his racist tainted rulings to stand.
She also dismissed records from ADA McGill that extensively track and monitor another key witness Cynthia White, who’s pending criminal cases were ALL were dropped by the prosecution following her testimony.
How can the court ignore the context. Note this information which follows had been previously prevented from being added to the record by Albert Sabo and other judges on appeal:
Photos from the Philadelphia Bulletin that prove Robert “I was on probation, did not have a license to drive a cab, and threw a Molotov cocktail into a school for pay” Chobert was not parked at the scene of the shooting. Chobert could not have witnessed the shooting. He was NOT parked directly behind the officer’s car as he claimed to be. The answer is: because the PCRA (Post Conviction Relief Act) allows the dismissal of this critical evidence through by time bar.
Finally, Judge Lucretia Clemons admonished the defense to limit their briefs challenging her proposed ruling to cite Pennsylvania law. It is commonly understood here, rather than being the birthplace of liberty, Pennsylvania is the place where the US Supreme Courts constitutional standards for criminal defendants are the very last place to be honored.
This case proves that racism reigns unabated in the American justice system, Mumia Abu-Jamal is the canary in the coal mine.
Judge Clemons’ 31pg proposed opinion will be available today, 10-27-22. The Defense has 20 days to reply, and prosecution given 10 additional days to respond before the court’s order dismissing Mumia’s request for a new trial becomes final and appealable.
Mumia Abu-Jamal has spent 42 years in prison for the death of Philadelphia Police officer Daniel Faulkner on Dec. 9th 1981. He has maintained his innocence and has sought his freedom by appealing to the very courts that now seek to preserve his unjust and unconstitutional conviction. At age 67 he has spent 42 years in prison.
Mumia Abu-Jamal is a broadcast journalist and internationally recognized author. Mr. Abu-Jamal is serving a life sentence at SCI Mahanoy in Pennsylvania. He is the author of 13 books, holds a Master’s degree in Comparative Literature and is currently working on the requirements to complete a PhD in the History of Consciousness Department at University of California Santa Cruz.
Noelle Hanrahan, Esq. firstname.lastname@example.org 415-793-7958 www. Prisonradio.org
Every act matters. Stand up. Join us as we launch Love Not Phear.
Cuando luchamos ganamos, When We Fight, We Win
Prison Radio Co-Director
Urgent support needed for cancer-stricken, imprisoned writer/artist, Kevin “Rashid” Johnson’s Legal Fund!
Cash App: $Solidarity2RIBPP
The US sanctions and embargo are preventing Cuba from rebuilding after Hurricane Ian.
The Biden Administration needs to act right now to help the Cuban people. Hurricane Ian caused great devastation. The power grid was damaged, and the electrical system collapsed. Over four thousand homes have been completely destroyed or badly damaged.
Cuba must be allowed, even if just for the next six months, to purchase the necessary construction materials to REBUILD. Cubans are facing a major humanitarian crisis because of Hurricane Ian.
Doctors for Assange Statement
Doctors to UK: Assange Extradition
‘Medically & Ethically’ Wrong
Ahead of the U.K. Home Secretary’s decision on whether to extradite Julian Assange to the United States, a group of more than 300 doctors representing 35 countries have told Priti Patel that approving his extradition would be “medically and ethically unacceptable”.
In an open letter sent to the Home Secretary on Friday June 10, and copied to British Prime Minster Boris Johnson, the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice Robert Buckland, the Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and the Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong, the doctors draw attention to the fact that Assange suffered a “mini stroke” in October 2021. They note:
“Predictably, Mr Assange’s health has since continued to deteriorate in your custody. In October 2021 Mr. Assange suffered a ‘mini-stroke’… This dramatic deterioration of Mr Assange’s health has not yet been considered in his extradition proceedings. The US assurances accepted by the High Court, therefore, which would form the basis of any extradition approval, are founded upon outdated medical information, rendering them obsolete.”
The doctors charge that any extradition under these circumstances would constitute negligence. They write:
“Under conditions in which the UK legal system has failed to take Mr Assange’s current health status into account, no valid decision regarding his extradition may be made, by yourself or anyone else. Should he come to harm in the US under these circumstances it is you, Home Secretary, who will be left holding the responsibility for that negligent outcome.”
In their letter the group reminds the Home Secretary that they first wrote to her on Friday 22 November 2019, expressing their serious concerns about Julian Assange’s deteriorating health.
Those concerns were subsequently borne out by the testimony of expert witnesses in court during Assange’s extradition proceedings, which led to the denial of his extradition by the original judge on health grounds. That decision was later overturned by a higher court, which referred the decision to Priti Patel in light of US assurances that Julian Assange would not be treated inhumanely.
The doctors write:
“The subsequent ‘assurances’ of the United States government, that Mr Assange would not be treated inhumanly, are worthless given their record of pursuit, persecution and plotted murder of Mr Assange in retaliation for his public interest journalism.”
“Home Secretary, in making your decision as to extradition, do not make yourself, your government, and your country complicit in the slow-motion execution of this award-winning journalist, arguably the foremost publisher of our time. Do not extradite Julian Assange; free him.”
Julian Assange remains in High Security Belmarsh Prison awaiting Priti Patel’s decision, which is due any day.
Sign the petition:
If extradited to the United States, Julian Assange, father of two young British children, would face a sentence of 175 years in prison merely for receiving and publishing truthful information that revealed US war crimes.
UK District Judge Vanessa Baraitser has ruled that "it would be oppressive to extradite him to the United States of America".
Amnesty International states, “Were Julian Assange to be extradited or subjected to any other transfer to the USA, Britain would be in breach of its obligations under international law.”
Human Rights Watch says, “The only thing standing between an Assange prosecution and a major threat to global media freedom is Britain. It is urgent that it defend the principles at risk.”
The NUJ has stated that the “US charges against Assange pose a huge threat, one that could criminalise the critical work of investigative journalists & their ability to protect their sources”.
Julian will not survive extradition to the United States.
The UK is required under its international obligations to stop the extradition. Article 4 of the US-UK extradition treaty says: "Extradition shall not be granted if the offense for which extradition is requested is a political offense."
The decision to either Free Assange or send him to his death is now squarely in the political domain. The UK must not send Julian to the country that conspired to murder him in London.
The United Kingdom can stop the extradition at any time. It must comply with Article 4 of the US-UK Extradition Treaty and Free Julian Assange.
Recently I’ve started working with the Coalition to Free Ruchell Magee. On March 17, Ruchell turned 83. He’s been imprisoned for 59 years, and now walks with a walker. He is no threat to society if released. Ruchell was in the Marin County Courthouse on August 7, 1970, the morning Jonathan Jackson took it over in an effort to free his older brother, the internationally known revolutionary prison writer, George Jackson. Ruchell joined Jonathan and was the only survivor of the shooting that ensued. He has been locked up ever since and denied parole 13 times. On March 19, the Coalition to Free Ruchell Magee held a webinar for Ruchell for his 83rd birthday, which was a terrific event full of information and plans for building the campaign to Free Ruchell. (For information about his case, please visit: www.freeruchellmagee.org.)
Below are two ways to stream this historic webinar, plus
• a petition you can sign
• a portal to send a letter to Governor Newsom
• a Donate button to support his campaign
• a link to our campaign website.
Please take a moment and help.
Note: We will soon have t-shirts to sell to raise money for legal expenses.
Here is the YouTube link to view the March 19 Webinar:
Here is the Facebook link:
Sign the petition to Free Ruchell:
Write to Governor Newsom’s office:
No one ever hurt their eyes by looking on the bright side
Tell Congress to Help #FreeDanielHale
U.S. Air Force veteran, Daniel Everette Hale has recently completed his first year of a 45-month prison sentence for exposing the realities of U.S drone warfare. Daniel Hale is not a spy, a threat to society, or a bad faith actor. His revelations were not a threat to national security. If they were, the prosecution would be able to identify the harm caused directly from the information Hale made public. Our members of Congress can urge President Biden to commute Daniel's sentence! Either way, Daniel deserves to be free.
Laws are created to be followed
by the poor.
Laws are made by the rich
to bring some order to exploitation.
The poor are the only law abiders in history.
When the poor make laws
the rich will be no more.
—Roque Dalton Presente!
(May 14, 1935 – Assassinated May 10, 1975)
 Roque Dalton was a Salvadoran poet, essayist, journalist, political activist, and intellectual. He is considered one of Latin America's most compelling poets.
“In His Defense” The People vs. Kevin Cooper
A film by Kenneth A. Carlson
Teaser is now streaming at:
Posted by: Death Penalty Focus Blog, January 10, 2022
“In his Defense,” a documentary on the Kevin Cooper case, is in the works right now, and California filmmaker Kenneth Carlson has released a teaser for it on CarlsonFilms.com
Just over seven months ago, California Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered an independent investigation of Cooper’s death penalty case. At the time, he explained that, “In cases where the government seeks to impose the ultimate punishment of death, I need to be satisfied that all relevant evidence is carefully and fairly examined.”
That investigation is ongoing, with no word from any of the parties involved on its progress.
Cooper has been on death row since 1985 for the murder of four people in San Bernardino County in June 1983. Prosecutors said Cooper, who had escaped from a minimum-security prison and had been hiding out near the scene of the murder, killed Douglas and Peggy Ryen, their 10-year-old daughter, Jessica, and 10-year-old Chris Hughes, a friend who was spending the night at the Ryen’s. The lone survivor of the attack, eight-year-old Josh Ryen, was severely injured but survived.
For over 36 years, Cooper has insisted he is innocent, and there are serious questions about evidence that was missing, tampered with, destroyed, possibly planted, or hidden from the defense. There were multiple murder weapons, raising questions about how one man could use all of them, killing four people and seriously wounding one, in the amount of time the coroner estimated the murders took place.
The teaser alone gives a good overview of the case, and helps explain why so many believe Cooper was wrongfully convicted.
New Legal Filing in Mumia’s Case
The following statement was issued January 4, 2022, regarding new legal filings by attorneys for Mumia Abu-Jamal.
Campaign to Bring Mumia Home
In her novel Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston wrote, “There are years that ask questions, and years that answer.”
With continued pressure from below, 2022 will be the year that forces the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office and the Philly Police Department to answer questions about why they framed imprisoned radio journalist and veteran Black Panther Mumia Abu-Jamal. Abu-Jamal’s attorneys have filed a Pennsylvania Post Conviction Relief Act (PCRA) petition focused entirely on the six boxes of case files that were found in a storage room of the DA’s office in late December 2018, after the case being heard before Judge Leon Tucker in the Court of Common Pleas concluded. (tinyurl.com/zkyva464)
The new evidence contained in the boxes is damning, and we need to expose it. It reveals a pattern of misconduct and abuse of authority by the prosecution, including bribery of the state’s two key witnesses, as well as racist exclusion in jury selection—a violation of the landmark Supreme Court decision Batson v. Kentucky. The remedy for each or any of the claims in the petition is a new trial. The court may order a hearing on factual issues raised in the claims. If so, we won’t know for at least a month.
The new evidence includes a handwritten letter penned by Robert Chobert, the prosecution’s star witness. In it, Chobert demands to be paid money promised him by then-Prosecutor Joseph McGill. Other evidence includes notes written by McGill, prominently tracking the race of potential jurors for the purposes of excluding Black people from the jury, and letters and memoranda which reveal that the DA’s office sought to monitor, direct, and intervene in the outstanding prostitution charges against its other key witness Cynthia White.
Mumia Abu-Jamal was framed and convicted 40 years ago in 1982, during one of the most corrupt and racist periods in Philadelphia’s history—the era of cop-turned-mayor Frank Rizzo. It was a moment when the city’s police department, which worked intimately with the DA’s office, routinely engaged in homicidal violence against Black and Latinx detainees, corruption, bribery and tampering with evidence to obtain convictions.
In 1979, under pressure from civil rights activists, the Department of Justice filed an unprecedented lawsuit against the Philadelphia police department and detailed a culture of racist violence, widespread corruption and intimidation that targeted outspoken people like Mumia. Despite concurrent investigations by the FBI and Pennsylvania’s Attorney General and dozens of police convictions, the power and influence of the country’s largest police association, the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) prevailed.
Now, more than 40 years later, we’re still living with the failure to uproot these abuses. Philadelphia continues to fear the powerful FOP, even though it endorses cruelty, racism, and multiple injustices. A culture of fear permeates the “city of brotherly love.”
The contents of these boxes shine light on decades of white supremacy and rampant lawlessness in U.S. courts and prisons. They also hold enormous promise for Mumia’s freedom and challenge us to choose Love, Not PHEAR. (lovenotphear.com/) Stay tuned.
—Workers World, January 4, 2022
Pa. Supreme Court denies widow’s appeal to remove Philly DA from Abu-Jamal case
Abu Jamal was convicted by a jury of first-degree murder of Faulkner in 1982. Over the past four decades, five of his appeals have been quashed.
In 1989, the state’s highest court affirmed Abu-Jamal’s death penalty conviction, and in 2012, he was re-sentenced to life in prison.
Abu-Jamal, 66, remains in prison. He can appeal to the state Supreme Court, or he can file a new appeal.
KYW Newsradio reached out to Abu-Jamal’s attorneys for comment. They shared this statement in full:
“Today, the Superior Court concluded that it lacked jurisdiction to consider issues raised by Mr. Abu-Jamal in prior appeals. Two years ago, the Court of Common Pleas ordered reconsideration of these appeals finding evidence of an appearance of judicial bias when the appeals were first decided. We are disappointed in the Superior Court’s decision and are considering our next steps.
“While this case was pending in the Superior Court, the Commonwealth revealed, for the first time, previously undisclosed evidence related to Mr. Abu-Jamal’s case. That evidence includes a letter indicating that the Commonwealth promised its principal witness against Mr. Abu-Jamal money in connection with his testimony. In today’s decision, the Superior Court made clear that it was not adjudicating the issues raised by this new evidence. This new evidence is critical to any fair determination of the issues raised in this case, and we look forward to presenting it in court.”
Questions and comments may be sent to: email@example.com
Sign our petition urging President Biden to grant clemency to Leonard Peltier.
Address: 116 W. Osborne Ave. Tampa, Florida 33603
How long will he still be with us? How long will the genocide continue?
By Michael Moore—VIA Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
American Indian Movement leader, Leonard Peltier, at 77 years of age, came down with Covid-19 this weekend. Upon hearing this, I broke down and cried. An innocent man, locked up behind bars for 44 years, Peltier is now America’s longest-held political prisoner. He suffers in prison tonight even though James Reynolds, one of the key federal prosecutors who sent Peltier off to life in prison in 1977, has written to President Biden and confessed to his role in the lies, deceit, racism and fake evidence that together resulted in locking up our country’s most well-known Native American civil rights leader. Just as South Africa imprisoned for more than 27 years its leading voice for freedom, Nelson Mandela, so too have we done the same to a leading voice and freedom fighter for the indigenous people of America. That’s not just me saying this. That’s Amnesty International saying it. They placed him on their political prisoner list years ago and continue to demand his release.
And it’s not just Amnesty leading the way. It’s the Pope who has demanded Leonard Peltier’s release. It’s the Dalai Lama, Jesse Jackson, and the President Pro-Tempore of the US Senate, Sen. Patrick Leahy. Before their deaths, Nelson Mandela, Mother Theresa and Bishop Desmond Tutu pleaded with the United States to free Leonard Peltier. A worldwide movement of millions have seen their demands fall on deaf ears.
And now the calls for Peltier to be granted clemency in DC have grown on Capitol Hill. Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI), the head of the Senate committee who oversees the Bureau of Indian Affairs, has also demanded Peltier be given his freedom. Numerous House Democrats have also written to Biden.
The time has come for our President to act; the same President who appointed the first-ever Native American cabinet member last year and who halted the building of the Keystone pipeline across Native lands. Surely Mr. Biden is capable of an urgent act of compassion for Leonard Peltier — especially considering that the prosecutor who put him away in 1977 now says Peltier is innocent, and that his US Attorney’s office corrupted the evidence to make sure Peltier didn’t get a fair trial. Why is this victim of our judicial system still in prison? And now he is sick with Covid.
For months Peltier has begged to get a Covid booster shot. Prison officials refused. The fact that he now has COVID-19 is a form of torture. A shame hangs over all of us. Should he now die, are we all not complicit in taking his life?
President Biden, let Leonard Peltier go. This is a gross injustice. You can end it. Reach deep into your Catholic faith, read what the Pope has begged you to do, and then do the right thing.
For those of you reading this, will you join me right now in appealing to President Biden to free Leonard Peltier? His health is in deep decline, he is the voice of his people — a people we owe so much to for massacring and imprisoning them for hundreds of years.
The way we do mass incarceration in the US is abominable. And Leonard Peltier is not the only political prisoner we have locked up. We have millions of Black and brown and poor people tonight in prison or on parole and probation — in large part because they are Black and brown and poor. THAT is a political act on our part. Corporate criminals and Trump run free. The damage they have done to so many Americans and people around the world must be dealt with.
This larger issue is one we MUST take on. For today, please join me in contacting the following to show them how many millions of us demand that Leonard Peltier has suffered enough and should be free:
President Joe Biden
E-mail: At this link
Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland
Attorney General Merrick Garland
E-mail: At this link
I’ll end with the final verse from the epic poem “American Names” by Stephen Vincent Benet:
I shall not rest quiet in Montparnasse.
I shall not lie easy at Winchelsea.
You may bury my body in Sussex grass,
You may bury my tongue at Champmedy.
I shall not be there. I shall rise and pass.
Bury my heart at Wounded Knee.
PS. Also — watch the brilliant 1992 documentary by Michael Apted and Robert Redford about the framing of Leonard Peltier— “Incident at Oglala”
By Margaret Atwood*
The moment when, after many years
of hard work and a long voyage
you stand in the centre of your room,
house, half-acre, square mile, island, country,
knowing at last how you got there,
and say, I own this,
is the same moment when the trees unloose
their soft arms from around you,
the birds take back their language,
the cliffs fissure and collapse,
the air moves back from you like a wave
and you can't breathe.
No, they whisper. You own nothing.
You were a visitor, time after time
climbing the hill, planting the flag, proclaiming.
We never belonged to you.
You never found us.
It was always the other way round.
*Witten by the woman who wrote a novel about Christian fascists taking over the U.S. and enslaving women. Prescient!
Bureau of Labor Statistics
U.S. Department of Labor
For release 10:00 a.m. (ET) Thursday, January 20, 2022
(202) 691-6378 • email@example.com • www.bls.gov/cps
(202) 691-5902 • PressOffice@bls.gov
In 2021, the number of wage and salary workers belonging to unions continued to decline (-241,000) to 14.0 million, and the percent who were members of unions—the union membership rate—was 10.3 percent, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. The rate is down from 10.8 percent in 2020—when the rate increased due to a disproportionately large decline in the total number of nonunion workers compared with the decline in the number of union members. The 2021 unionization rate is the same as the 2019 rate of 10.3 percent. In 1983, the first year for which comparable union data are available, the union membership rate was 20.1 percent and there were 17.7 million union workers.
These data on union membership are collected as part of the Current Population Survey (CPS), a monthly sample survey of about 60,000 eligible households that obtains information on employment and unemployment among the nation’s civilian noninstitutional population age 16 and over. For further information, see the Technical Note in this news release.
Highlights from the 2021 data:
• The union membership rate of public-sector workers (33.9 percent) continued to be more than five times higher than the rate of private-sector workers (6.1 percent). (See table 3.)
• The highest unionization rates were among workers in education, training, and library occupations (34.6 percent) and protective service occupations (33.3 percent). (See table 3.)
• Men continued to have a higher union membership rate (10.6 percent) than women (9.9 percent). The gap between union membership rates for men and women has narrowed considerably since 1983 (the earliest year for which comparable data are available), when rates for men and women were 24.7 percent and 14.6 percent, respectively. (See table 1.)
• Black workers remained more likely to be union members than White, Asian, or Hispanic workers. (See table 1.)
• Nonunion workers had median weekly earnings that were 83 percent of earnings for workers who were union members ($975 versus $1,169). (The comparisons of earnings in this news release are on a broad level and do not control for many factors that can be important in explaining earnings differences.) (See table 2.)
• Among states, Hawaii and New York continued to have the highest union membership rates (22.4 percent and 22.2 percent, respectively), while South Carolina and North Carolina continued to have the lowest (1.7 percent and 2.6 percent, respectively). (See table 5.)
Industry and Occupation of Union Members
In 2021, 7.0 million employees in the public sector belonged to unions, the same as in the private sector. (See table 3.)
Union membership decreased by 191,000 over the year in the public sector. The public-sector union membership rate declined by 0.9 percentage point in 2021 to 33.9 percent, following an increase of 1.2 percentage points in 2020. In 2021, the union membership rate continued to be highest in local government (40.2 percent), which employs many workers in heavily unionized occupations, such as police officers, firefighters, and teachers.
The number of union workers employed in the private sector changed little over the year. However, the number of private-sector nonunion workers increased in 2021. The private-sector unionization rate declined by 0.2 percentage point in 2021 to 6.1 percent, slightly lower than its 2019 rate of 6.2 percent. Industries with high unionization rates included utilities (19.7 percent), motion pictures and sound recording industries (17.3 percent), and transportation and warehousing (14.7 percent). Low unionization rates occurred in finance (1.2 percent), professional and technical services (1.2 percent), food services and drinking places (1.2 percent), and insurance (1.5 percent).
Among occupational groups, the highest unionization rates in 2021 were in education, training, and library occupations (34.6 percent) and protective service occupations (33.3 percent). Unionization rates were lowest in food preparation and serving related occupations (3.1 percent); sales and related occupations (3.3 percent); computer and mathematical occupations (3.7 percent); personal care and service occupations (3.9 percent); and farming, fishing, and forestry occupations (4.0 percent).
Selected Characteristics of Union Members
In 2021, the number of men who were union members, at 7.5 million, changed little, while the number of women who were union members declined by 182,000 to 6.5 million. The unionization rate for men decreased by 0.4 percentage point over the year to 10.6 percent. In 2021, women’s union membership rate declined by 0.6 percentage point to 9.9 percent. The 2021 decreases in union membership rates for men and women reflect increases in the total number of nonunion workers. The rate for men is below the 2019 rate (10.8 percent), while the rate for women is above the 2019 rate (9.7 percent). (See table 1.)
Among major race and ethnicity groups, Black workers continued to have a higher union membership rate in 2021 (11.5 percent) than White workers (10.3 percent), Asian workers (7.7 percent), and Hispanic workers (9.0 percent). The union membership rate declined by 0.4 percentage point for White workers, by 0.8 percentage point for Black workers, by 1.2 percentage points for Asian workers, and by 0.8 percentage point for Hispanic workers. The 2021 rates for Whites, Blacks, and Hispanics are little or no different from 2019, while the rate for Asians is lower.
By age, workers ages 45 to 54 had the highest union membership rate in 2021, at 13.1 percent. Younger workers—those ages 16 to 24—had the lowest union membership rate, at 4.2 percent.
In 2021, the union membership rate for full-time workers (11.1 percent) continued to be considerably higher than that for part-time workers (6.1 percent).
In 2021, 15.8 million wage and salary workers were represented by a union, 137,000 less than in 2020. The percentage of workers represented by a union was 11.6 percent, down by 0.5 percentage point from 2020 but the same as in 2019. Workers represented by a union include both union members (14.0 million) and workers who report no union affiliation but whose jobs are covered by a union contract (1.8 million). (See table 1.)
Among full-time wage and salary workers, union members had median usual weekly earnings of $1,169 in 2021, while those who were not union members had median weekly earnings of $975. In addition to coverage by a collective bargaining agreement, these earnings differences reflect a variety of influences, including variations in the distributions of union members and nonunion employees by occupation, industry, age, firm size, or geographic region. (See tables 2 and 4.)
Union Membership by State
In 2021, 30 states and the District of Columbia had union membership rates below that of the U.S. average, 10.3 percent, while 20 states had rates above it. All states in both the East South Central and West South Central divisions had union membership rates below the national average, while all states in both the Middle Atlantic and Pacific divisions had rates above it. (See table 5 and chart 1.)
Ten states had union membership rates below 5.0 percent in 2021. South Carolina had the lowest rate (1.7 percent), followed by North Carolina (2.6 percent) and Utah (3.5 percent). Two states had union membership rates over 20.0 percent in 2021: Hawaii (22.4 percent) and New York (22.2 percent).
In 2021, about 30 percent of the 14.0 million union members lived in just two states (California at 2.5 million and New York at 1.7 million). However, these states accounted for about 17 percent of wage and salary employment nationally.
Coronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic Impact on 2021 Union Members Data
Union membership data for 2021 continue to reflect the impact on the labor market of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Comparisons with union membership measures for 2020, including metrics such as the union membership rate and median usual weekly earnings, should be interpreted with caution. The onset of the pandemic in 2020 led to an increase in the unionization rate due to a disproportionately large decline in the number of nonunion workers compared with the decline in the number of union members. The decrease in the rate in 2021 reflects a large gain in the number of nonunion workers and a decrease in the number of union workers. More information on labor market developments in recent months is available at:
Resources for Resisting Federal Repression
Since June of 2020, activists have been subjected to an increasingly aggressive crackdown on protests by federal law enforcement. The federal response to the movement for Black Lives has included federal criminal charges for activists, door knocks by federal law enforcement agents, and increased use of federal troops to violently police protests.
The NLG National Office is releasing this resource page for activists who are resisting federal repression. It includes a link to our emergency hotline numbers, as well as our library of Know-Your-Rights materials, our recent federal repression webinar, and a list of some of our recommended resources for activists. We will continue to update this page.
If you are contacted by federal law enforcement you should exercise all of your rights. It is always advisable to speak to an attorney before responding to federal authorities.
State and Local Hotlines
If you have been contacted by the FBI or other federal law enforcement, in one of the following areas, you may be able to get help or information from one of these local NLG hotlines for:
If you are located in an area with no hotline, you can call the following number:
Know Your Rights Materials
The NLG maintains a library of basic Know-Your-Rights guides.
WEBINAR: Federal Repression of Activists & Their Lawyers: Legal & Ethical Strategies to Defend Our Movements: presented by NLG-NYC and NLG National Office
We also recommend the following resources:
Movement for Black Lives Legal Resources
By Joshua Leifer, Nov. 7, 2022
Mr. Leifer is a contributing editor at Jewish Currents who frequently writes about Israel and Israeli politics.
Itamar Ben-Gvir, second from left, on election night in Israel. Credit...Corinna Kern/Reuters
Late Tuesday night in Jerusalem, Itamar Ben-Gvir, the leader of the far-right Jewish Power Party, stood onstage triumphant before a raucous, ecstatic crowd. His supporters chanted, “Look who it is, the next prime minister!” as trance beats blared in the background. Mr. Ben-Gvir, in fact, had not been elected prime minister, but he will have played an instrumental role in returning Benjamin Netanyahu to power.
Mr. Ben-Gvir beamed down at his supporters and began his speech. When he pledged to deal harshly with those disloyal to Israel, they broke out in chants of “Death to terrorists,” a sanitized version of the slogan that is often a fixture at right-wing rallies: “Death to Arabs.” Mr. Ben-Gvir also expressed his thanks to Dov Lior, a rabbi who gave theological justification for the 1995 assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin by a far-right Israeli.
Together with the Religious Zionism party, led by Bezalel Smotrich, Jewish Power won the third-largest share of seats in the Knesset, providing Mr. Netanyahu with enough support to form a governing coalition. Jewish Power waged a populist campaign that resonated especially among young Jewish Israelis; nearly as many active-duty troops voted for Mr. Ben-Gvir and Mr. Smotrich’s party list as did for Mr. Netanyahu’s chief rival, the centrist Yair Lapid. Mr. Ben-Gvir is now a kingmaker in Israeli politics; he wants to be king. “Friends, I’m only 46 years old,” he told his supporters on Tuesday night. “I’m not prime minister — yet.”
Mr. Ben-Gvir has good reasons to feel confident. In 1995, when he infamously threatened Mr. Rabin on television just weeks before Mr. Rabin’s killing, Mr. Ben-Gvir appeared to many a dangerous extremist. Today his views fit within much of the Israeli mainstream. They are even more common among younger Israelis, who overwhelmingly identify with the right.
Israel’s shift rightward has been long in the making. Mr. Rabin’s assassination also killed the Israel that Mr. Rabin was imagined to represent. The Israel that many Americans — and especially American Jews — fondly remember for its irreverent secularism and vaguely social-democratic ethos no longer exists. It was always more myth than reality, but the facts that enabled the myth are gone: A conservative interpretation of Judaism increasingly dominates the public sphere. The last left-wing parties are headed to the grave. The idea that Jews and Arabs should have equal rights is supported by only a minority of Jewish Israelis.
Since at least Mr. Netanyahu’s second term in 2009, outright anti-Palestinian racism has become a routine feature of Israeli discourse, as Mr. Netanyahu successively normalized politicians seen to represent the most belligerent forms of ethnonationalism: In 2010 it was Avigdor Lieberman, who called for transferring out of areas where Palestinian-Arab citizens of Israel were the majority; in 2013, it was Naftali Bennett, who called for annexing parts of the West Bank (and later replaced Mr. Netanyahu as prime minister). In February 2019, when Mr. Netanyahu first gave his stamp of approval to the Jewish Power party, it was not an aberration but the culmination of a steady march. It was also a recognition, on Mr. Netanyahu’s part, that the difference between his mainstream-right Likud party and the extreme right was now a matter of degree.
The real reasons for this shift defy the conventional explanations. Yes, the violence of the second intifada in the early 2000s disillusioned many Jewish Israelis about the possibility of peace with the Palestinians. But the subsequent decade and a half, during most of which Mr. Netanyahu was prime minister, largely insulated most Israelis from the consequences of their government maintaining an indefinite occupation of the West Bank and siege of the Gaza Strip. Support for a two-state solution practically evaporated, and the issue nearly disappeared from Israeli discourse.
The past five years have seen far fewer Israeli civilian and military casualties than in the 1990s and early 2000s, but the Israeli Jewish public has also become much less willing to stomach losses. In the wake of the 21-day war last spring — sparked by an Israeli raid on the Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem and responded to with rocket fire from Gaza — and the interethnic violence in so-called mixed cities, Mr. Ben-Gvir channeled Israelis’ desire for a quick and easy solution to what some call the“Palestinian problem” by proposing to resolve it by force. His party’s platform promises “the establishment of sovereignty over all parts of Eretz Israel liberated in the Six-Day War and settlement of the enemies of Israel in the Arab countries that surround our small land.”
Demographics are not destiny, but in Israel they could enable a permanent majority for the religious-right coalition that has solidified through the decade-plus of Mr. Netanyahu’s dominance. Mourning the election results, Israel’s secular liberals lament that they increasingly find themselves a minority in their own country: More than half of Jewish Israelis currently identify as traditional, religious or Haredi (ultra-Orthodox), and demographers expect these politically conservative populations to increase as a share of Israel’s population. Not only do roughly two-thirds of Jewish Israelis ages 18 to 34 identify as right wing, but also, according to a 2016 Pew Survey, 49 percent of Jewish Israelis ages 18 to 49 agree that “Arabs should be expelled or transferred from Israel,” compared with 44 percent who disagree.
While Mr. Ben-Gvir has perhaps been the loudest voice in the ascendant right, he is far from unique: The next Netanyahu-led government will be the most right wing and Orthodox in the country’s history. It will include such figures as Mr. Smotrich, the Religious Zionism leader and a self-described “proud homophobe,” as well as stridently anti-L.G.B.T.Q. members of Haredi parties. The glue that will hold this coalition together is a form of theocratic Jewish supremacy that, on the ground, will translate most of all into increased repression of Palestinians and other non-Jewish minorities.
Mr. Netanyahu once served as a brake on the more ambitious proposals from his right-wing coalition partners, but now he is more beholden to them than ever before, for returning him to power and potentially for helping him evade corruption charges, in part through the crippling of the courts.
Yet even if he does beat his corruption trial, he will not lead Israel’s right forever. Mr. Netanyahu is 73 years old. The 17 year era of his leadership have seen the near elimination of secular and moderate right-wingers from Likud, which has mutated into a populist party in thrall to its charismatic leader. But this also means the party’s future is uncertain without him. When Mr. Netanyahu inevitably exits public life, he will leave a vacuum on the right that Mr. Ben-Gvir is poised to fill.
Part of what enabled Mr. Ben-Gvir’s success was that while he did not hide the religious elements of his agenda, he campaigned to represent a range of Jewish Israeli society. His party includes figures from across Israeli demographics that typically find themselves in separate parties: Although many in Jewish Power are hard-line, Orthodox West Bank settlers, others are secular hawks. There are Sephardic traditionalists, who identify with Mr. Ben-Gvir as the son of Iraqi-Kurdish immigrants, and young, Ashkenazi Haredim who are disillusioned with the conventional Orthodox parties.
In his election night speech, Mr. Ben-Gvir averred that his party owed its success to its ability to “represent everyone — secular and religious, ultra-Orthodox and traditional, Sephardim and Ashkenazim.” His rhetoric combines blunt ethnonationalism, worship of the land of Israel and veneration of the armed forces. In the past, the leaders of the extreme right disdained the Israeli mainstream and sought to distance themselves from it; Mr. Ben-Gvir, by contrast, wants to represent it.
“The things Americans value most are at risk,” says a draft of the National Climate Assessment, a major federal scientific report slated for release next year.
By Brad Plumer, Nov. 8, 2022
A home destroyed by the Marshall fire in Louisville, Colo., in December. The United States has warmed 68 percent faster than Earth as a whole over the past 50 years, according to a draft scientific report. Credit...Jack Dempsey/Associated Press
WASHINGTON — The effects of climate change are already “far-reaching and worsening” throughout all regions in the United States, posing profound risks to virtually every aspect of society, whether it’s drinking water supplies in the Midwest or small businesses in the Southeast, according to a draft scientific report being circulated by the federal government.
The draft of the National Climate Assessment, the government’s premier contribution to climate knowledge, provides the most detailed look yet at the consequences of global warming for the United States, both in the present and in the future. The final report isn’t scheduled to be published until late 2023, but the 13 federal agencies and hundreds of scientists who are compiling the assessment issued a 1,695-page draft for public comment on Monday.
“The things Americans value most are at risk,” says the draft report, which could still undergo changes as it goes through the review process. “More intense extreme events and long-term climate changes make it harder to maintain safe homes and healthy families, reliable public services, a sustainable economy, thriving ecosystems and strong communities.”
As greenhouse gas emissions rise and the planet heats up, the authors write, the United States could face major disruptions to farms and fisheries that drive up food prices, while millions of Americans could be displaced by disasters such as severe wildfires in California, sea-level rise in Florida or frequent flooding in Texas.
“By bringing together the latest findings from climate science, the report underscores that Americans in every region of the country and every sector of the economy face real and sobering climate impacts,” said John Podesta, a senior adviser to President Biden on clean energy, adding that the draft report was still undergoing scientific peer review and public comment.
The assessment isn’t entirely fatalistic: Many sections describe dozens of strategies that states and cities can take to adapt to the hazards of climate change, such as incorporating stronger building codes or techniques to conserve water. But in many cases, the draft warns, adaptation efforts are proceeding too slowly.
Under a law passed by Congress in 1990, the federal government is required to release the National Climate Assessment every four years, with contributions from a range of scientists across federal agencies as well as outside experts. The last assessment, released in 2018, found that unchecked warming could cause significant damage to the U.S. economy.
The Trump administration tried, but largely failed, to halt work on the next report, and its release was pushed back to 2023.
The draft report comes as world leaders are meeting in Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt, this week for the annual United Nations climate change summit. This year’s talks are focused on the harm that global warming is inflicting on the world’s poorest nations and the question of what rich countries should do to help. But the forthcoming U.S. assessment will offer a stark reminder that even wealthy nations will face serious consequences if temperatures keep rising.
The United States has warmed 68 percent faster than Earth as a whole over the past 50 years, according to the draft report, with average temperatures in the lower 48 states rising 2.5 degrees Fahrenheit (1.4 degrees Celsius) during that time period. That reflects a global pattern in which land areas are warming faster than oceans are, and higher latitudes are warming faster than lower latitudes are as humans heat up the planet, primarily by burning fossil fuels like oil, gas and coal for energy.
Americans can now feel the effects of climate change in their everyday lives, the draft says. In coastal cities like Miami Beach, Fla., the frequency of disruptive flooding at high tide has quadrupled over the last 20 years as sea levels have risen. In Alaska, 14 major fishery disasters have been linked to changes in climate, including an increase in marine heat waves. In Colorado, ski industries have lost revenue because of declining snowfall.
Across the country, deadly and destructive extreme weather events such as heat waves, heavy rainfall, droughts and wildfires have already become more frequent and severe.
In the 1980s, the nation suffered an extreme weather disaster that caused at least $1 billion in economic damage about once every four months, on average, after adjusting for inflation. “Now,” the draft says, “there is one every three weeks on average.” Some extreme events, like the Pacific Northwest heat wave last year that killed at least 229 people, would have been virtually impossible without global warming.
Bigger hazards are on the way if global temperatures keep rising, the draft report says, although the magnitude of those risks will largely depend on how quickly humanity can get its fossil fuel emissions under control.
“The faster and further we cut greenhouse gas emissions, the more we will reduce risks to current and future generations,” the draft says. “Each additional increment of warming will cause more damage and greater economic losses than previous warming, while the risk of catastrophic or unforeseen consequences also increases.”
The Biden administration has set a goal for the United States to cut its greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030 and to stop adding planet-warming pollution to the atmosphere altogether by 2050. But while America’s emissions have fallen in recent years, the report says, current efforts are “not sufficient” and emissions would need to decline at a much faster pace, by more than 6 percent per year, to meet that 2050 target.
And even if drastic action on emissions is taken today, the United States will still face rising climate risks through at least 2030 because of lags in the climate system — in other words, it would take some time for reductions in emissions to have an effect on the climate. That means every state in the country will need to take steps to adapt to growing hazards.
There are some encouraging signs. At least 18 states have now written formal adaptation plans, with another six in the works. Cities and communities across the country are increasingly aware of the dangers of global warming and are taking actions to protect themselves.
Yet many of those adaptation efforts are poorly funded and remain “incremental,” the draft says, instead of the “transformative” changes that are likely to be necessary to deal with climate effects. Instead of merely installing more air-conditioning in response to heat waves, cities could redesign buildings and parks to help stave off heat. In addition to elevating individual homes above floodwaters, states will need to redirect development from flood-prone areas.
The authors of the draft report also note that many risks from climate change may be hard to predict and defend against. As the planet warms, the dangers of “compound events” grows. In 2020, for example, a combination of record-breaking heat and widespread drought created large, destructive wildfires in California, Oregon and Washington that exposed millions of people to hazardous smoke and stretched firefighting resources.
And it is hard to foresee how American society will react to the potentially wrenching changes produced by global warming.
“Americans’ quality of life is also threatened by climate change in ways that may be more difficult to quantify or predict, such as increased crime and domestic violence, harm to mental health, reduced happiness and fewer opportunities for outdoor recreation and play,” the draft report says. “These compounding stressors can increase segregation, reliance on social safety net programs, and income inequality.”
Coral Davenport contributed reporting.
By Nilar Thein, Nov. 11, 2022
Ms. Nilar Thein is a Myanmar democracy activist.
U Kyaw Min Yu, his wife, Daw Nilar Thein, and their daughter the couple’s release from prison in Yangon, Myanmar, in January 2012. Credit...Soe Than Win/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
We apologized to our baby daughter before she was born.
My husband, Kyaw Min Yu, a writer and activist known across Myanmar as Ko Jimmy, would lean down to my swollen belly, recite Buddhist mantras of love and say we’re sorry for the life we had chosen. We had spent years campaigning for a democratic Myanmar, were repeatedly imprisoned for that, and were painfully aware that our little girl, Phyu Nay Kyi Min Yu, whom we nicknamed Whitey (“Phyu” means white in Burmese), would not enjoy a normal childhood.
Fifteen years later, our worst fears have come true. My husband is dead, executed in July by Myanmar’s military junta, which overthrew a democratically elected civilian government and seized power in February of last year. I am now on the run, separated from my daughter.
Myanmar is in chaos. Thousands of people have been killed or arrested and more than one million displaced in a worsening humanitarian catastrophe. The military is waging a scorched-earth offensive to terrorize the people and erase the democratic progress painstakingly achieved over the years. Executing Ko Jimmy, a prominent figure in the struggle for democracy for three decades, was part of that strategy.
But the generals will fail. Myanmar has traveled too far down the road to freedom. Millions of determined young people who have grown up tasting democracy and have access to the internet won’t accept being dragged back to the dark days when the junta reigned supreme.
The corrupt military, known as the Tatmadaw, first seized power in 1962 and kept the country oppressed, isolated and backward. In 1988, Ko Jimmy (“Ko” means “brother” in Burmese) was a student leader in pivotal protests that, although violently suppressed, gave birth to a new generation committed to democracy.
We paid dearly for it: My husband — like thousands of others — was arrested and imprisoned from 1988 to 2005. For the last nine of those years, he and I were held in the notorious prison at Tharrawaddy. Beaten and abused, we grew close and cared for each other as best we could, passing secret notes through the iron bars to keep our spirits up. I loved his unshakable commitment to the fight, his poetry and how deeply he cared for others and his country. We were both released in 2005, married a year later, and I became pregnant.
As expected, it would be no ordinary upbringing for Whitey. I badly wanted to breastfeed — to nurture her and feel that close mother-child bond. Instead, we introduced baby formula early in case I was arrested. When Whitey was just four months old, her father was arrested again and imprisoned for another five years.
I went into hiding with Whitey, moving between safe houses, sometimes through torrential downpours in the dark of night. At one point we hid with several other activists in the storage room of a house. As police searched the house for us one day, we whispered to Whitey, distracting her so that she would not make any noises that might give us away and tear us apart. She stayed quiet and the police left.
But this was no life for a baby. Brokenhearted, I entrusted her to my in-laws in 2007. I was arrested the following year. Whitey’s father and I would not be released again until 2012.
By then, things were gradually improving. The military implemented parliamentary elections and other reforms and the National League for Democracy, led by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, won a crushing electoral victory in 2015. The generals still held significant power, but many in Myanmar enjoyed relatively better and freer lives. Hopes were raised that real, lasting democracy was finally within our grasp. It seemed that all the years in prison had not been in vain.
It all came crashing down in the military coup last year.
But the generals have gravely miscalculated. The people have responded to the junta’s brutality with courage and defiance. Protests continue, and thousands have taken up arms, some sheltering among the several ethnic armed groups that have long resisted the junta and control large expanses of the country. Even Whitey, now a teenager, is old enough to comprehend the military’s inhumanity: She wrote a school essay last year reflecting on how the defiant reaction to the coup had made her proud of her parents. Part of me wanted to smile, but part of me wanted to scream that she has had to experience this.
In July our world fell apart. The generals called Ko Jimmy a terrorist and filed bogus charges that he had planned guerrilla attacks. He was convicted in a closed-door trial by a kangaroo court and executed along with three other pro-democracy activists. He was 53. The junta has not returned his body to us. The executions were the first by the military in more than three decades, making clear the generals’ intention to drag Myanmar back to its brutal past.
Yet the world seems to barely notice. The United States has denounced the coup and the executions, but Myanmar needs more than rhetorical support. U.S. President Joe Biden will meet with leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), at an annual summit this weekend in Cambodia. We will probably hear the usual calls for ASEAN — of which Myanmar is a member — to bring more pressure to bear on the junta.
But ASEAN has never been able to bring the generals to heel, and dealing with them bestows legitimacy on their illegal coup. Instead — while recognizing the limits of foreign pressure on an isolated military junta — Western countries like the United States, European nations and others that support democracy must start by urgently and aggressively taking up the cause of Myanmar’s people and ensure that any efforts to restore democracy are guided not by ineffectual ASEAN — but by the civilian leaders of Myanmar who were chosen by the people.
Widowed, I am in hiding again, separated once more from my daughter for her safety. Our troubles are not uncommon. Hundreds of thousands of people in Myanmar have lost loved ones, have been torn from homes and families, have lost livelihoods or have left everything behind to join the resistance. To those people I say: You are not alone. We stand together and will restore our democracy. There is no going back.
Over 100,000 people are missing in Mexico, but even amid this national agony, one mother’s story stands out both for the scope of her suffering and for her work trying to end the nation’s nightmare.
By Oscar Lopez, Nov. 11, 2022
Ms. Herrera said she had no intention of stopping her work on behalf of all the mothers in Mexico whose children are lost. Credit...Marian Carrasquero for The New York Times
MEXICO CITY — Although a woman of modest means, she has traversed Mexico, filed a lawsuit against its government, met with United Nations officials and even hugged the pope, all in the service of one quest: reuniting with her four sons who have disappeared.
“A mother’s heart is in each of her children,” said María Herrera Magdaleno in a recent interview. Losing them is “the worst thing that can happen in your life.”
As successive governments have failed to end Mexico’s drug wars and the widespread violence and misery they have wreaked, more than 100,000 people are missing, and the anguished cries of mothers like Ms. Herrera have become commonplace. They are heard at protest marches in major cities, in the desert where relatives poke at the ground looking for corpses and in homes all over the country, where mothers weep alone.
But even amid this national agony, Ms. Herrera’s story stands out, both for the dimension of the horror she has suffered, and for her activism in trying to end her nightmare and that of so many of her compatriots.
Doña Mary, as she’s affectionately known, has become a leader among the mothers searching Mexico for their loved ones, connecting a disparate group of grief-stricken women into a national movement that has demanded action from a government they say has long ignored them.
“She is a powerful woman, and she’s a woman who has a capacity to connect, to educate, to convey things that are not easy to convey,” said Montserrat Castillo an activist for the disappeared who has known Ms. Herrera for a decade and now works for the organization she founded, Searching Relatives.
Her first sons to disappear were Raúl and Jesús Salvador in August 2008. The two adult brothers — Raul was 19 and Jesús Salvador 24 — were helping their mother with the business she had founded after leaving a husband she believed unfaithful, making her a single mother looking after her own eight children and two stepchildren.
Ms. Herrera, 73, began by making clothes, selling her handiwork to the families of her children’s classmates in the village in the western state of Michoacan where she lived. As her business grew, she began traveling to the nearby city of Guadalajara to buy clothes to sell in bulk. Eventually, she branched out into selling jewelry, particularly gold pieces.
As the business started to take off, her children joined in, going on the road to buy and sell gold.
But as their enterprise grew, so too did violence in Mexico: In 2006, then-president Felipe Calderón launched an all-out war on Mexico’s drug cartels, igniting a bloody battle that still rages.
Soon, this surging crime wave caught up with Ms. Herrera’s family.
Raúl and Jesús Salvador had gone to neighboring Guerrero state with five colleagues. They usually came back from such trips by the weekend. When they hadn’t returned by Saturday, Ms. Herrera said she felt an overwhelming sadness come over her and started crying for no reason.
“‘I have this feeling that something bad, something awful is happening,’” she recalls telling one of her daughters-in-law.
Dawn broke on Sunday with still no sign of them. She went to church, unable to stop crying, despite the priest’s efforts to console her. By nightfall, her sons still hadn’t appeared. Another one of her sons, Juan Carlos, tried calling but couldn’t reach them.
Neither Raúl nor Jesús Salvador, nor any of their five colleagues, have been seen again.
“It’s something I almost don’t want to remember,” she said through tears. “But it’s so marked on you that you can’t forget.”
Ms. Herrera went to the local government office in her village to ask for help, but it offered little support. So she set out with Juan Carlos to the town near where her sons had last been seen, Atoyac de Álvarez, in Guerrero state.
Violence had overtaken the town, as rival criminal groups fought each other for control. When Ms. Herrera went knocking door to door asking about her sons, she was met with fear and hostility.
“Get out of here,” one resident told her, Ms. Herrera recalled. “Take your children away, they’re going to kill them!”
They went to the local police station and to a nearby army barracks asking for help, but at best they were ignored, and in one instance they were threatened, according to Ms. Herrera.
Fed up with the stonewalling, Ms. Herrera traveled to Mexico City and stationed herself outside the Mexican Senate, begging for help. Eventually, she met a local congresswoman from Guerrero, who agreed to help her find her sons, lending a government car and helping file a complaint with the attorney general’s office.
Ms. Herrera began devoting all her time and resources to the search, selling her business to support the cost. She also forbade her other sons from going out on the road for their gold-selling business, fearful of what could happen as murders in Mexico soared.
But after two years with no sign of her sons, money started running out. To cut costs when she traveled to the capital, Ms. Herrera began sleeping at the bus station.
Her children began pressing her to let them travel again.
“‘Mom, let us go out and work,’” she said her son Gustavo asked of her as he drove his mother to the bus station for another trip to Mexico City. “We don’t have anything left, we’re going into debt.”
That trip would be the last time she ever spoke to her son.
Just over two years after Raúl and Jesús Salvador had gone missing, Gustavo, 28 at the time, and his brother Luís Armando, then 24, disappeared while on a work trip in eastern Veracruz state, where violence was also on the rise.
On hearing the news, Ms. Herrera fell into a deep depression.
“I wanted to die,” she said. “My whole family is destroyed.”
At last, the voices of her grandchildren roused her. She began traveling again to Mexico City. But the process proved fruitless.
“We went to all the national offices in all the places where my children had passed through,” Ms. Herrera said. “No one gave us an answer.”
Such encounters with a justice system that is inefficient at best and incompetent at worst are common in Mexico. As of last November, no more than 6 percent of disappearance cases had resulted in prosecutions, according to the United Nations.
Authorities across the country are known to work in tandem with organized crime, and it is likely that the local police were involved in or at least had knowledge of all four young men’s disappearances, according to Sofia de Robina, a lawyer for Ms. Herrera.
In 2011, on one of her trips to follow up with the authorities on the fate of her sons, Ms. Herrera came across a growing protest movement founded by the Mexican poet Javier Sicilia, after his son and six other young men were killed by gang members. Called the Movement for Peace With Justice and Dignity, Mr. Sicilia led caravans across Mexico calling for an end to violence.
Ms. Herrera went and spoke to a rally in the city of Morelia, taking with her laminated photos of her four missing sons.
“I heard a harrowing cry when they yelled: ‘You’re not alone, you’re not alone,’” Ms. Herrera said. “In that cry I felt a kind of strength, and I joined the caravan.”
She traveled the country for two weeks, including to Guerrero and Veracruz. But though she found no sign of her sons, she did find something else: dozens of other mothers, brothers, sisters and sons with missing relatives.
“It was something very, very cruel for me to discover that it wasn’t just me,” Ms. Herrera said. “And from there, we started to share that pain, to share that energy, all this anger, all this suffering, to know each other and scream as one.”
But solidarity alone could get them only so far.
Ms. Herrera realized all those parents needed more resources and the knowledge of how to look for their missing children. So she began convincing universities to give workshops on how to search for missing people, the majority of whom are presumed to be killed and buried in unidentified graves.
She also began organizing conferences, where women from all over Mexico would learn from anthropologists and forensic experts how to look for signs of disturbed earth that might point to a hidden grave, and how to identify human remains.
These women then took their knowledge home, forming their own collectives to perform the work the government was failing to do: Looking for their children. When Ms. Herrera started this work, there was just a handful of these groups in the national network she helped found. Now, there are more than 160.
“We organized ourselves,” she said, “because we learned that from them,” she said, referring to the criminal gangs.
Ms. Herrera has gone countless times to Guerrero and Veracruz, digging in the dirt for any sign of her children. So common are clandestine graves in those states, she frequently finds some kind of human remains. When she or other collectives identify bones or other remains, they are handed over to the local prosecutor’s office for DNA testing.
As of yet, none of the remains have been identified as her sons.
Her work isn’t without risk: Her family has received threatening phone calls, and in the last two years, five mothers looking for disappeared children have been killed.
Ms. Herrera has remarried, and although she says she takes comfort in her new relationship, she can’t truly be happy knowing her sons are still missing.
“Any kind of joy is clouded by this pain,” she said.
And so she has continued her work. In May, she traveled to the Vatican and met Pope Francis, asking for a blessing for her sons and all the other missing people in Mexico.
“I told him, bless all these mothers who are living through this horrific situation,” she recalls telling the pontiff. “It’s a terror that we are living through.”
Last week, Ms. Herrera sued the Mexican government before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in Washington, for its possible role in her sons’ disappearance, either through direct involvement or omission, and for failing to tackle the crisis of disappearance in Mexico.
Ms. Herrera said she had no intention of stopping her work, not just for her, but for all the mothers in Mexico whose children are lost.
“As long as God lets me, and until I really can’t any longer, I’m going to keep at it,” she said. “I understand that pain, you know, that tremendous love.”
Lawyers for the prisoner, an Iraqi with spine disease, say it has suddenly gotten worse and that the U.S. naval base cannot provide adequate care.
By Carol Rosenberg, Nov. 12, 2022
Abd al-Hadi al-Iraqi has been a prisoner at Guantánamo Bay since 2007. He has pleaded guilty to committing war crimes in Afghanistan in 2003 and 2004. Credit... Lawyers of Abd al-Hadi al-Iraqi
The military has rushed a surgical team to Guantánamo Bay to potentially conduct emergency spine surgery on an Iraqi prisoner who has undergone several operations at the base in Cuba, according to lawyers familiar with the case.
Lawyers for the prisoner, Abd al-Hadi al-Iraqi, who is in his 60s, argue that the small base hospital may not be properly equipped for such a delicate surgery, and propose that he be medically evacuated.
Pentagon officials declined to comment on what lawyers describe as a sudden deterioration of the spine of Mr. Hadi, including claims in legal filings that the neurosurgeon who has handled his case is unable to conduct this latest surgery because he has Covid-19.
Nor would they confirm claims in the filings that a CT scanner needed for preoperative imaging is broken. The military had also been leasing a magnetic imaging device for a better look at the spine of Mr. Hadi, whose disc disease has progressed during his years in U.S. military custody — but earlier legal filings noted that the M.R.I. machine had been damaged during transport to Guantánamo Bay and needed to be replaced.
“Performing a surgery without adequate diagnostic testing and imaging is, simply put, malpractice,” the lawyers said in a two-page notice filed with Mr. Hadi’s military judge on Nov. 10.
It cast the Navy hospital at Guantánamo Bay as functioning “in substandard conditions” and said the prisoner would be better cared for at the Walter Reed military hospital outside Washington, D.C., or at the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, a U.S. military facility in Germany that treats battlefield evacuees. Guantánamo’s hospital is generally not equipped to handle complex cases and, with the exception of life-threatening emergencies, routinely airlifts patients to the United States for care.
By law, the 35 men held prisoner there are forbidden from entering the United States.
Mr. Hadi has pleaded guilty to committing war crimes in Afghanistan in 2003 and 2004 as a frontline commander of Taliban and Al Qaeda insurgents in a deal that postponed his sentencing until 2024, allowing time for his lawyers and other U.S. officials find a country to offer him resettlement and provide him with health care.
There is little his judge, Air Force Lt. Col. Mark F. Rosenow, can do, aside from asking for regular briefings from the military on his care and condition. Judges at the war court have no authority to intervene in the functioning of the prison, other than suspending proceedings or dismissing charges as a remedy for government wrongdoing or passivity.
Lt. Col. Cesar H. Santiago, a Pentagon spokesman for Guantánamo policy, invoked “privacy considerations” and declined to confirm the lawyers’ accounts. Without specifying at what level, he said the Defense Department “is closely monitoring the situation.”
Mr. Hadi, who says his real name is Nashwan al-Tamir, suffers from degenerative spinal disease that was deemed acute in 2017 when guards discovered him incontinent in his cell. The Pentagon rushed a neurosurgical team to the base before the arrival of Hurricane Irma for the first of five spine-related surgeries in nine months — four on his spine and one to address a life-threatening blood clot that followed one of those operations.
Mr. Hadi now relies on a wheelchair and a walker inside the prison, and a padded geriatric chair for support in court. Guards also keep a hospital bed inside the courtroom where he has slept when heavy painkillers caused him to nod off.
Earlier this year, doctors recommended he undergo a fifth operation on his spine. In June, the chief medical officer evaluating detainee health care at Guantánamo, Capt. Corry Kucik of the Navy, testified that the base hospital facilities lacked adequate facilities and technology to reliably conduct the operation, and that some surgeons might not want to risk their license doing it.
Packers Sanitation Services, a food safety contractor, hired children as young as 13 to clean dangerous equipment on overnight shifts, the department said. Several suffered chemical burns.
By Remy Tumin, Nov. 11, 2022
An image that the Labor Department included in paperwork seeking an injunction against Packers Sanitation Services showed a worker using a high-powered hose at a meatpacking plant in Worthington, Minn. Credit...U.S. Department of Labor
One of the largest food safety companies in the United States illegally employed more than two dozen children in at least three meatpacking plants, several of whom suffered chemical burns from the corrosive cleaners they were required to use on overnight shifts, the Labor Department found.
The department filed for an injunction in U.S. District Court in Nebraska on Wednesday against Packers Sanitation Services, which Judge John. M. Gerrard swiftly ordered on Thursday. The injunction requires the company to stop “employing oppressive child labor” and to comply with a Labor Department investigation into the practice.
Packers, a cleaning and sanitation company based in Kieler, Wis., provides contract work at hundreds of slaughtering and meatpacking plants across the country.
The Labor Department found that Packers employed at least 31 children, ranging in age from 13 to 17, who cleaned dangerous equipment with corrosive cleaners during overnight shifts at three slaughtering and meatpacking facilities: a Turkey Valley Farms plant in Marshall, Minn., and JBS USA plants in Grand Island, Neb., and Worthington, Minn.
Their jobs included cleaning kill floors, meat- and bone-cutting saws, grinding machines and electric knives, according to court documents. The mix of boys and girls were not fluent English speakers and were interviewed mostly in Spanish, investigators said.
The Labor Department found that several minors employed by the company, including one 13-year-old, suffered caustic chemical burns and other injuries. One 14-year-old, who worked from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. five to six days a week, suffered injuries from chemical burns from cleaning machines used to cut meat. School records showed that the student fell asleep in class or missed class because of the job at the plant.
According to court documents, the Labor Department believes Packers may employ minor children under similar conditions at other plants.
The Labor Department also accused the company of interfering with the investigation by intimidating minor workers to discourage them from cooperating, and of deleting and manipulating employment files.
Packers “has an absolute company-wide prohibition against the employment of anyone under the age of 18 and zero tolerance for any violation of that policy — period,” it said in a statement. The company denied the Labor Department’s accusation that it was not cooperating with the investigation.
In a statement, Turkey Valley Farms said that it was taking the allegations “very seriously” and that it was “reviewing the matter internally.”
“We expect all contractors to share our commitment to the health and safety of any individuals working in our facilities and to adhere to these principles that foster a safe work environment as well as to all applicable federal and state labor laws,” the company said. It added that it would “take all appropriate action” based on the outcome of the Labor Department’s investigation.
JBS USA did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Friday.
“Federal laws were established decades ago to prevent employers from profiting by putting children in harm’s way,” Michael Lazzeri, the regional administrator in the Labor Department’s Wage and Hour Division in Chicago, said in a statement. “Taking advantage of children, exposing them to workplace dangers — and interfering with a federal investigation — demonstrates Packers Sanitation Services Inc.’s flagrant disregard for the law and for the well-being of young workers.”
Child labor rules prohibit minors under the age of 14 from working and prohibit 14- and 15-year-olds from working later than 9 p.m. over the summer and past 7 p.m. during the school year. They are also prohibited from working more than three hours on school days, more than eight hours on non-school days and more than 18 hours per week. Minors cannot operate motor vehicles, forklifts or other hazardous equipment.
The Labor Department began investigating Packers in August when it received a referral from a law enforcement agency that the company was assigning hazardous work to minors. Investigators conducted surveillance, issued warrants for the company’s operation, subpoenaed school records and conducted interviews with “many minor children,” the department said.