Bay Area United Against War Newsletter, December 25, 2022


Supporters of Mumia Abu-Jamal march down JFK Blvd. past the Juanita Kidd Stout Center for Criminal Justice and City Hall, in Philadelphia, Friday, December 16, 2022.Jessica Griffin / Staff Photographer

Results of Mumia Abu-Jamal's Court Hearing 

December 16, 2022


In October, Common Pleas Court Judge Lucretia Clemons strongly signaled in a 30-page opinion that she is leaning toward dismissing the defense appeal.

However, she gave the two sides one last chance Friday, Dec. 16, 2022 to argue their positions. The lawyers did so in a courtroom filled with about 50 Abu-Jamal allies, as well as Faulkner’s widow, Maureen, and a smaller number of her supporters. Mumia Abu-Jamal was not present.

Clemons said she would rule within three months. Before ending the hearing, the judge asked the prosecutors and defense lawyers to make sure that Abu-Jamal’s lawyers had reviewed every scrap of evidence that the District Attorney’s Office could share.

“I do not want to do this again,” she said.




Watch the live-stream of the Dec. 16 Court Rally at youtu.be/zT4AFJY1QCo.

The pivotal hearing follows a hearing Oct. 26 at which the Judge said she intended to dismiss Abu-Jamal’s appeal based on six boxes of evidence found in the District Attorney’s office in Dec. 2018. Clemons repeatedly used procedural rules – rather than allowing for an examination of the new evidence – in her 31-page decision dismissing Mumia Abu-Jamal’s petition for a new trial. (https://tinyurl.com/mtvcrfs4 ) She left the door open on Abu-Jamal’s appeal regarding the prosecution’s selection of jurors based on race.

Abu-Jamal’s attorneys Judith Ritter, Sam Spital  and Bret Grote filed a “ Petitioner’s Response to the Court’s Notice of Intent to Dismiss PCRA Petition” (https://tinyurl.com/mvfstd3w ) challenging her refusal to hold a hearing on the new evidence.

Just this week, the UN Working Group on People of African Descent filed an Amicus brief, a friend of the court document that reinforced the facts and arguments in Mumia's attorney's PRCRA filing. (https://tinyurl.com/587r633p ) They argued that no judicial time bar should be applied when the defendant is a victim of historic racial bias that may have tainted the possibility of a fair trial and due process.

At a press conference Dec. 13 announcing the Amicus brief, the Hon. Wendell Griffen, Division 5 judge of the 6th Judicial Circuit Court for Pulaski County, Arkansas said, “Clemons is only the second Black judge to hear any aspect of Abu-Jamal’s case. Will she have the courage to say that there are too many factors here that compel for Mumia to justify dismissing the motion? This evidentiary hearing is required, because exculpatory evidence was concealed.” (https://youtu.be/Xh38IKVc_oc )

Griffen clarified his statement on Dec 14 during a Democracy Now interview (https://youtu.be/odA_jjMtXQA): “Under a 1963 decision that every law student knows about, and every lawyer that does criminal law practice, in Brady v. Maryland, the Supreme Court of the U.S. held that due process of law is violated when the prosecution conceals evidence relevant to guilt or punishment from the bench. In this country, that kind of precedent should have required Mumia to be released and the Commonwealth decide whether or not to prosecute him based upon having revealed the right evidence. That hasn’t been done.”

More details on Abu-Jamal’s case can be found at 
https://tinyurl.com/ymhvjp8e and https://tinyurl.com/34j645jc.





Urgent support needed for cancer-stricken, imprisoned writer/artist, Kevin “Rashid” Johnson’s Legal Fund!

Fundraiser for an attorney to represent Rashid’s struggle for medical care
A campaign is underway to hire an attorney to represent Kevin Rashid Johnson’s struggle for medical care. The prison has denied this care to him, despite a cancer diagnosis discovered over one year ago for which no treatment has yet been provided.

Here is the donation link for Rashid’s legal fund: 
Please be as generous as you can.


Prostate cancer can be cured if discovered and treated before it spreads (metastasizes) beyond the prostate. But once it spreads it becomes incurable and fatal.

Rashid's prostate cancer was discovered over a year ago and diagnosed by biopsy months ago, before it had spread or any symptoms had developed. However, he has now developed symptoms that indicate it likely has metastasized, which would not have happened if he had begun receiving treatment earlier. Denied care and delayed hospital appointments continue, which can only be intended to cause spreading and worsening symptoms.

I just received word from Rashid through another prisoner where he is, that he was transported on October 25, 2022 to the Medical College of Virginia (MCV) hospital, which is a state hospital where Virginia Department of Corrections (VDOC) officials also work. MCV appears to have a nefarious relationship with the VDOC in denying prisoners needed treatment. Upon arrival to the hospital he was told the appointment had been rescheduled, which has now become a pattern.

The appointment was for a full body PET scan to determine if and to what degree his cancer has metastasized. When he met with a radiologist on October 4, 2022, after 3 prior re-schedulings, there was concern that his cancer may have spread because of symptoms he's begun developing. This is his fourth rescheduled hospital appointment which has delayed appointments for weeks to months, preventing him from receiving care.

Because of delayed testing and denied care Rashid has developed symptoms that continue to worsen, which include internal bleeding and pain. The passage of time without care is worsening his condition and making the likelihood of death from the spread of his cancer more certain.





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.



Dear friends, 

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:




Ruchell’s Website: 



Charlie Hinton


No one ever hurt their eyes by looking on the bright side



Tell Congress to Help #FreeDanielHale


I’m pleased to announce that last week our client, Daniel Hale, was awarded the Sam Adams Award for Integrity in Intelligence. The “Corner-Brightener Candlestick” was presented to Daniel’s friend Noor Mir. You can watch the online ceremony here.

As it happens, this week is also the 20th anniversary of the first drone assassination in Yemen. From the beginning, the drone assassination program has been deeply shrouded in secrecy, allowing U.S. officials to hide significant violations of international law, and the American Constitution. In addition to the lives directly impacted by these strikes, the program has significantly eroded respect for international law and thereby puts civilians around the world in danger.

Daniel Hale’s revelations threw a beam of light into a very dark corner, allowing journalists to definitively show that the government's official narrative was a lie. It is thanks to the great personal sacrifice of drone whistleblowers like Hale that public understanding has finally begun to catch up to reality.

As the Sam Adams Associates note:

 “Mr. Hale was well aware of the cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment to which other courageous officials have been subjected — and that he would likely suffer the same. And yet — in the manner of his famous ancestor Nathan Hale — he put his country first, knowing what awaited him at the hands of those who serve what has become a repressive Perpetual War State wreaking havoc upon much of the world.”

We hope you’ll join the growing call to pardon or commute Hale’s sentence. U.S. citizens can contact your representatives here.

Happy new year, and thank you for your support!


Jesselyn Radack
Whistleblower & Source Protection Program (WHISPeR)

Twitter: @JesselynRadack



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)[1]

[1] Roque Dalton was a Salvadoran poet, essayist, journalist, political activist, and intellectual. He is considered one of Latin America's most compelling poets.







Screenshot of Kevin Cooper's artwork from the teaser.


 “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.



A Plea for the Compassionate Release of 

Leonard Peltier

Video at:


Screen shot from video.

Sign our petition urging President Biden to grant clemency to Leonard Peltier.




Email: contact@whoisleonardpeltier.info

Address: 116 W. Osborne Ave. Tampa, Florida 33603



The Moment

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!



Resources for Resisting Federal Repression

Since June of 2020, activists have been subjected to an increasingly aggressive crackdown on protests by federal law enforcement. The federal response to the movement for Black Lives has included federal criminal charges for activists, door knocks by federal law enforcement agents, and increased use of federal troops to violently police protests. 

The NLG National Office is releasing this resource page for activists who are resisting federal repression. It includes a link to our emergency hotline numbers, as well as our library of Know-Your-Rights materials, our recent federal repression webinar, and a list of some of our recommended resources for activists. We will continue to update this page. 

Please visit the NLG Mass Defense Program page for general protest-related legal support hotlines run by NLG chapters.

Emergency Hotlines

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: 

National Hotline

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: 

Center for Constitutional Rights

Civil Liberties Defense Center

Grand Jury Resistance Project

Katya Komisaruk

Movement for Black Lives Legal Resources

Tilted Scales Collective






1) Lost in Candyland

By Megan K. Stack, Dec. 22, 2022

Ms. Stack is a contributing Opinion writer. 


Zak Arctander for The New York Times

Christmas is upon us. Candy season is about to reach its peak. It won’t end, though; it never ends.


Valentine hearts already nudge against the dwindling supply of Santas in the candy aisle, and Easter isn’t far behind. Here in the suburbs, the ancient agrarian moons of plant, harvest, store, survive have been supplanted by Target’s merchandise and marketing flows. My family is awash in this dubious bounty. Since returning from overseas assignments to America, with two elementary-school-age children, we’ve been wading year-round in sweets and treats, almost none of which we bought or even wanted.


Because I have happy memories of being a chocolate-smeared U.S. kid and because I started raising my kids in Asia before bringing them back to the United States, I can testify that American childhood has become hopelessly, almost unrecognizably glutted with candy. The pandemic, it seems, supercharged a national confectionery addiction, handing an unmitigated triumph to corn syrup peddlers who brag that American candy sales have reached an all-time high.


The 2022 report of the National Confectioners Association says the quiet part out loud, boastfully chalking up record-breaking sales to the “incredible permissibility” fostered by “the strong connection between emotional well-being and confectionery.”


Indeed. My kids are surrounded by so many sweets, it presents a parenting conundrum: how to let them enjoy treats (because I’m not a monster) but prevent them from eating even half the candy they are given (because that would be insane) without shaming them or fetishizing candy as a forbidden fruit.


Somewhere along the way, between the Sisyphean pantry purges and tiresome negotiations, I’ve started to see a quieter and more sorrowful story in our national predilection for sweets.


It’s no surprise that children love candy. They are watchers and apprentices, drawn to bright and flimsy trifles, bits of the world they can touch and taste. They are also growing, often ravenous, hankering for a tingle of sweet.


The adult role, though, is more ambiguous. I often hear grumbling and lamentations from other parents, always tinged with resignation. As if candy simply existed in circulation, like air or water or money, and there were nothing we can do about its omnipresence, which, of course, we ourselves are creating.


Which bitterness are we trying to sweeten? What groundswell of despair are we seeking to contain?


All over the world, all through history, there has been the dichotomy of sweet and sour and folklore in which a child’s want for sweet stands as a metaphor for adult desire. A Russian friend told me about midwives who placed sugar between laboring women’s legs to tempt the babies out. This perhaps apocryphal anecdote sent me nearly to the ground laughing, hysterical with the image of an infant prowling from the womb like a fox from its den. But this is what we do — sugar to cut pain, sugar to shorten hardship, sugar to coax our children forth into a difficult world. But always mixed with danger: The gingerbread house in the woods is a trap.


If America’s candy culture is a symptom, then we adults must be the disease — frightened for the future, harried by daily cares, snatching up a cheap simulacrum of happiness that’s already melting once it hits the tongue.


Maybe this looks bad to me because, coming home after many years gone, I’m frequently taken aback by the indifference our culture shows to children. Americans lash out with stinging judgment against parents who fail to “control their kids,” as if a spirit-crushing harshness were the main criteria for raising a child.


My family lives in an American suburb of relative wealth and red-hot ambition. Long before our eldest son reached an age of double digits, I’d gotten many earfuls of unsolicited strategy about sports, college and scholarships. After moving here, the boys started coming home with anxious questions about whether we’ve saved for their education and what they should do to get into college.


I spent my own childhood reading novels in the grass or rambling in the woods, worries shushed by bygone parental mantras: “Don’t worry.” Or “Just do your best.” And especially “It’ll all work out,” often accompanied by a dismissive wave or a sigh of cigarette smoke. That was the general philosophy of my upbringing. Some things would go well, and others wouldn’t, and I should be strong and keep faith that, one way or the other, something good would emerge from the process. It’s just life.


These blandishments, today, sound close to negligence. There is, instead, a lot of talk about therapy and anxiety and pharmaceuticals. We load kids down with dire climate warnings and apocalyptic visions. We push them to compete fiercely and express shock and confusion as childhood rates of depression and suicide keep climbing. Then we cheer things up by giving them enough candy to ruin their health forever.


My kids and their classmates are the lucky ones. (Knock wood.) American children regularly die by gunshot, although there is no war going on. American children — especially if they are not white — regularly get prosecuted as adults in violation of international human rights convention. Hundreds of American children sleep in adult jails or prisons every night.


Some American men are so eager to exploit children sexually that federal law enforcement acknowledges that it simply does not have the resources to investigate child pornography at scale.


Meanwhile, Halloween has bloated from a single, thrilling evening of spooky-sweet revelry into a monthlong worship of sugar. It was still a warmish September when we first hung plastic skeletons from our car trunk and drove to a packed church parking lot for the season’s first Trunk or Treat. That kicked off weeks of tailgates, school parties, neighborhood parties and the town parade, each of which sent the kids home with enough candy to fill a pillowcase. In between there were birthday parties, class rewards and countless spare lollipops and chocolate bars from bowls that materialized everywhere from the doctor’s office to the Sunday school classroom.


By this time of the year, candy has overtaken our house like some particularly vigorous mildew. We have tried to control the invasion — donating bulging sacks to the local firehouse and shrugging off cries of protest as we tossed load after load into the trash — but goody bags and forgotten sweets stashes are still, somehow, tucked away all over the house.


And more every day! Christmas candy is already arriving by mail. Homemade cookies and my cousin’s trademark fruitcake arrive in ribbons. These homemade goodies would be gladly received in an environment of moderation, but under the circumstances, I greet each package with the woozy bewilderment of a drowning person offered a glass of water.


For example, our 9-year-old just came home from a night of sports and crafts at the community center with a jumbo box of sugar-encrusted sour watermelon candy, most of which he’d eaten. “I won bingo,” he crowed. I wasn’t surprised, because our other son won the raffle at the same event a few weeks earlier, netting a massive platter of thickly iced sugar cookies.


The following morning, my husband took both kids off to lay wreaths on veterans’ graves with the Scouts. They came tripping back rosy-cheeked and exhilarated. “There was a bar!” the youngest announced.




“Not an alcohol bar,” the eldest jumped in. “There was hot chocolate and, like, 10 different kinds of cookies.”


“Oh,” I said.


“And marshmallows and candy canes.”




But the weekend debauchery still wasn’t done. Hours later, I picked up one of the kids from a friend’s house, where he’d watched the World Cup final. “Wasn’t that game amazing?” I enthused, backing out of the driveway.


“We didn’t watch all of it,” he admitted. “We were eating candy.”




“Do you know who Bob Ross is?”


“Uh, yeah?”


“He makes this candy that’s, like, the paint is like sugar, and you dip the paintbrush in and then eat it.”


These moments spin me out in various unhappy directions. I haven’t mentioned this yet, because it’s somewhat controversial, but the childhood obesity rate in the United States sits at just under 20 percent. Given the risks of diabetes and heart problems and asthma, I’d prefer my children not become obese.


But that’s not my only — or even my main — health concern. What really bothers me is adopting overindulgence as a lifestyle.


I know how this works. I, too, crave little rushes. When I was a child, it was candy. I especially loved a sneaky piece — pilfered from an elderly relative’s porcelain dish or bought with scraped-together change on a surreptitious bike ride to the store. Something I wasn’t supposed to have. The ritual of it. The secret.


Later I smoked cigarettes with the same vaguely illicit thrill.


I don’t smoke anymore, but I still savor a glass of wine and go to bed every night already looking forward to the rush of that first cup of coffee in the morning. But if I multiply our children’s candy consumption into an analogous quantity of some adult vice, it doesn’t look good.


And what do I tell them — I, who stumbles along in a state of temptation, wanting a cigarette for 20 years, buying them candy and throwing it away in illogical spasms of indulgence and restraint?


And maybe, in the end, this is the silent, instinctive wisdom behind the madness of candy. Our children will always be forced to walk a line between their appetites and their higher mind.


From the very start, this exhausting dynamic: We will surround you with the thing you crave. Leave it alone.



2) A Rush of Far-Right Initiatives by Israel’s New Government Raises Concerns

Benjamin Netanyahu needed the support of far-right factions to return to the prime minister’s office. Now they want to curb the powers of the judiciary, giving rise to fears about an erosion of democracy.

By Isabel Kershner, Dec. 22, 2022


Clash between Palestinians and the Israeli army in Nablus, in the occupied West Bank on Wednesday.

Clash between Palestinians and the Israeli army in Nablus, in the occupied West Bank on Wednesday. Credit...Zain Jaafar/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

JERUSALEM — As Israel’s prime minister designate, Benjamin Netanyahu, prepares to swear in his new hard-line government and return to office, his deals to cement the support of far-right coalition partners are raising widespread concerns about the country’s future as a liberal democracy.


The emerging coalition will be the most hard-right and religious administration in Israel’s history, made up of Mr. Netanyahu’s conservative Likud party and another five far-right and ultra-Orthodox factions. Mr. Netanyahu, Israel’s longest serving prime minister, who was ousted 18 months ago, is on trial for corruption and has grown ever more dependent on these hard-line allies because the more liberal parties refuse to sit in a government led by a premier under criminal indictment.


That dependency, critics say, has weakened him in the coalition negotiations, forcing him to go along with at least some of the demands for far-reaching changes that would limit the powers of the judiciary and curb the independence of the police.


Mr. Netanyahu’s hard-line allies need him just as much as he needs them; they, too, have no alternative path to power. But their fundamental lack of trust in Mr. Netanyahu, who has a record of breaking promises to coalition partners, led them to insist on a rush of legislation to anchor their new roles and authorities in law, with potentially damaging consequences for the democratic system.


“What we see in the legislation preceding the formation of the government is a change in the rules of the game of Israeli democracy,” said Gayil Talshir, a political scientist at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.


The outgoing prime minister, Yair Lapid, a centrist, described the incoming government on Thursday as “dangerous, extremist, irresponsible.”


“It will end badly,” he said, calling it “a clearance sale of Israel’s future.”


The legislative rush and drafts of coalition agreements include proposals that would allow Parliament to override Supreme Court decisions and would give more weight to politicians in the selection of judges.


Legal amendments would greatly expand the powers of the incoming minister of national security, Itamar Ben-Gvir, who oversees the police. Mr. Ben-Gvir is the leader of the ultranationalist Jewish Power party and the main advocate of the bill, which would give him the authority to set policy for the police, something critics say will allow him to politicize the force’s operations.


He was convicted in the past on charges of inciting racism and of support for a terrorist group, and ran in the election on a bullish ticket of fighting organized crime and increasing governance, particularly in areas heavily populated by members of Israel’s Arab minority.


Another amendment will allow Bezalel Smotrich, the leader of the Religious Zionism party, to serve as a second minister in the hallowed Ministry of Defense. Mr. Smotrich, whose party ultimately seeks to annex the occupied West Bank, has been promised authority over the agencies dealing with Jewish settlements and Palestinian and Israeli civilian life in the occupied West Bank, in consultation with the prime minister.


A third change will allow Aryeh Deri, the leader of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party, to serve as a minister despite a recent conviction and a suspended prison sentence for tax fraud. That amendment, analysts say, could end up applying to Mr. Netanyahu should he ultimately be convicted or reach a plea deal including a suspended sentence.


Mr. Netanyahu denies all wrongdoing and says the cases against him will collapse in court.


Still, experts say, the proposed changes outlined in the coalition agreements are still in flux.


“Constitutional political changes are being carried out in record speed, even before the government has been established,” said Yohanan Plesner, president of the Israel Democracy Institute, a nonpartisan research center. “This demonstrates the fragility of our democracy.”


But Mr. Plesner emphasized that such practices were not unprecedented in Israel and that there were still many possible outcomes.


“There is a discrepancy,” he said, “between the ideas and initiatives and declarations of politicians before elections, and what is actually happening in the negotiating room and being manifested in coalition agreements and government policy.”


Mr. Netanyahu, who has already pushed Israel further to the right during his 15 years in power, will now be the main force of moderation in his government compared with his more hard-line partners. Though he is known for his aggressive campaign tactics, Mr. Netanyahu has generally protected the democratic system during his long tenure.


He has rejected the warnings about damage to Israeli democracy as fear-mongering by those who lost the election and has pledged to act in the interest of all Israel’s citizens.


“We were elected to lead in our way, the way of the national right and the way of the liberal right,” he said in a recent speech to Parliament, “and that’s what we will do.”


The most immediate concerns revolve around the law expanding the powers of Mr. Ben-Gvir, the national security minister. It has passed its first reading in Parliament but is still pending final approval.


In the past, the minister overseeing the police would set policy priorities in consultation with the commissioner of police, but would not interfere in operational matters or have any influence over investigations.


The proposed legislation subordinates the police to the minister’s authority, leading legal officials and experts to fear a politicization of the force. And it grants the minister the right to set priorities and time frames for investigations in a departure from past practices.


“The Israel Police will be run under a threatening and belligerent man who lacks responsibility and experience, who wishes to turn it into a political agency,” and to turn the police commissioner into a “puppet,” the outgoing minister of public security, Omer Bar-Lev, told Parliament this week.


Mr. Ben-Gvir argues that the police should be subordinate to a minister’s policy in the same way that the military carries out the government’s policy. But critics say that unlike the military, which fights Israel’s enemies, the mission of the police is to deal with Israeli citizens — including corrupt politicians.


Aida Touma-Sliman, a Palestinian-Israeli lawmaker, told the committee discussing the bill that the incoming minister’s goals were “ideological” and “racist” and would end up creating a “political police.”


Human rights activists say they are worried that the legislation giving Mr. Ben-Gvir broader control over the police could be used to suppress protests.


Noa Sattath, the executive director of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, said her organization petitioned the parliamentary committee discussing the bill to exclude protests from Mr. Ben-Gvir’s areas of authority, as did the committee’s own legal adviser. But Mr. Ben-Gvir rejected that recommendation.


“Clearly the minister wants to have authority over the way the police deal with protests,” said Ms. Sattath, who described the bill as endangering one of the foundations of the Israeli democratic system.


In the face of mounting criticism, Mr. Ben-Gvir told the parliamentary committee on Thursday that he would postpone the discussions and voting on the most contentious parts of the bill until after the inauguration of the government.


Also of concern are the proposals to change the way the judiciary operates.


If implemented, they will dramatically curb the powers of the Supreme Court, which has long been seen by liberal Israelis and analysts as one of the country’s most important institutions safeguarding against the erosion of liberal democratic values. Because Israel has only one house of Parliament and no formal constitution, the judiciary plays a critical role in protecting minority rights and offsetting rule by the parliamentary majority.


The coalition partners are keen to see these judicial changes, not least to ensure that the Supreme Court cannot overturn the hasty legislation now making its way through Parliament.


“In the coming weeks we will have to face the most significant threats Israeli democracy has seen in recent decades,” Mr. Plesner said at a recent conference at his institute on the implications of the judicial changes proposed by members of the incoming coalition.


“The issues on the agenda concern the nature of the state and the basic rights of each and every one of us.”


Myra Noveck contributed reporting from Jerusalem.



3) The F.D.A. Now Says It Plainly: Morning-After Pills Are Not Abortion Pills

Labels of Plan B One-Step had previously said, without scientific evidence, that the pill might block fertilized eggs from implanting in the womb.

By Pam Belluck, Dec. 23, 2022


A close up view of a pharmacy shelf with three slots for packages of Plan B One-Step for sale. The two slots on the left and right side are lined with the purple-and-pink packages, with a middle slot empty.

A common morning-after pill, approved in 1999 and now sold as Plan B One-Step, does not block a fertilized egg’s ability to implant in the uterus — a claim that abortion opponents have used to erroneously call it an abortion pill. Credit...Jim Watson/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The Food and Drug Administration on Friday significantly changed the information that will be in every box of the most widely used emergency contraceptive pills to make clear that they do not prevent a fertilized egg from implanting in the womb. The agency explained in an accompanying document that the products cannot be described as abortion pills.


Up to now, packages of the brand-name pill, Plan B One-Step, as well as generic versions of it have said that the pill might work by preventing a fertilized egg from implanting in the womb — language that scientific evidence did not support. That wording led some abortion opponents and politicians who equate a fertilized egg with a person to say that taking the morning-after pill could be the equivalent of having an abortion or even committing murder.


The F.D.A. revised the leaflets inserted in packages of pills to say that the medication “works before release of an egg from the ovary,” meaning that it acts before fertilization, not after. The package insert also says the pill “will not work if you’re already pregnant, and will not affect an existing pregnancy.”


In a question-and-answer document posted on the F.D.A.’s website, the agency explicitly addressed the abortion issue. In answer to the question, “Is Plan B One-Step able to cause an abortion?” the agency writes: “No.” It added: “Plan B One-Step prevents pregnancy by acting on ovulation, which occurs well before implantation. Evidence does not support that the drug affects implantation or maintenance of pregnancy after implantation, therefore, it does not terminate a pregnancy.”


Since the Supreme Court overturned the ruling that ensured the national right to abortion, advocates of abortion rights have warned that some conservative states may outlaw or restrict morning-after pills on the erroneous grounds that they might cause abortions. Advocates and reproductive health providers have also worried that people who are misinformed about how the pills work may decline to use an effective tool to prevent unwanted pregnancies.


For at least a decade, the pills have figured in political debates about abortion. During the 2012 presidential election, Mitt Romney called emergency contraceptives “abortive pills,” and two other Republican presidential candidates, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum, made similar statements.


Some conservative states allow pharmacists or pharmacies to refuse to carry Plan B, which was approved in 1999 and is available without a prescription. And a recent study found that more than 60 percent of about 1,400 people surveyed believed that morning-after pills work by preventing the implantation of a fertilized egg.


But scientific evidence has never shown that Plan B affects a fertilized egg’s ability to attach to the uterus. The F.D.A. acknowledged as much 10 years ago, after a 2012 investigation by The New York Times, when a spokeswoman for the agency said that “the emerging data on Plan B suggest that it does not inhibit implantation.”


As a result of The Times’s reporting, MedlinePlus, a website run by the National Institutes of Health, deleted passages suggesting emergency contraceptives could disrupt implantation. Other health and medical websites made similar changes. In 2013, European health authorities revised the label of Norlevo, a pill that is identical to Plan B, to say that it “cannot stop a fertilized egg from attaching to the womb.”


The F.D.A. said it made the change now because it had completed a review of a 2018 application to alter the label that was submitted by Foundation Consumer Healthcare, a company that in 2017 bought the Plan B brand from Teva Pharmaceutical Industries. Agency officials said the pandemic delayed the review process and that the timing was not motivated by political considerations.


The company did not conduct any new studies for its application, submitting already existing research, a spokeswoman said.


“As the label was written previously, it was causing more confusion, and was incorrect according to the scientific research,” the company’s marketing director, Tara Evans, said. “Our goal was to clarify misinformation,” she said, adding that “the events of 2022 reignited the urgency.”


Students for Life of America, which earlier this year posted an Instagram video with a caption saying “Plan B can cause an abortion. It’s right there on the box,” said in an email on Friday that it rejected the F.D.A.’s new language on the science of the pills.


“For years we’ve been saying that the packaging indicated abortions could take place,” the organization said. “Their answer is to just change the box.”


Plan B One-Step and its generic versions — including brands like Take Action, My Way and Option 2 — contain levonorgestrel, one of a class of hormones called progestins that are also found at lower doses in birth control pills and intrauterine devices. The pills are most effective in preventing pregnancy if taken within 72 hours of sexual intercourse, although they can sometimes work if taken within five days.


Another type of morning-after pill, marketed as Ella and containing a compound called ulipristal acetate, is only available by prescription and is not affected by the F.D.A.’s label change. There has been less research on this type of pill, but studies suggest that it is highly unlikely to prevent implantation of a fertilized egg. In 2009, after months of scrutiny, Ella was approved for sale in overwhelmingly Catholic Italy, where laws would have barred it if it had been considered to induce abortions.


According to data published in 2021 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly one-quarter of women of reproductive age who have sex with men answered yes to the question: “Have you ever used emergency contraception, also known as ‘Plan B,’ ‘Preven,’ ‘Ella,’ ‘Next Choice,’ or ‘Morning after’ pills?” The agency did not break down the data by the type of pills taken.


Dr. Giovannina Anthony, an obstetrician-gynecologist at the Women’s Health and Family Care Clinic in Jackson, Wyo., said that because of claims by anti-abortion groups some patients have been confused about whether the pills can cause an abortion, and her staff will now be able to use the F.D.A.’s new interpretation of the scientific evidence to reassure them.


Dr. Anthony, whose state is among those trying to restrict access to abortion, said the F.D.A.’s new guidance “is critical for women who have had unprotected sex and live in geographic areas where abortion is either inaccessible, banned or impossible to obtain. It should encourage more women to use Plan B as an effort to decrease the unplanned pregnancy rate.”


As far back as the 1999 approval process, the maker of Plan B — Barr Pharmaceuticals, later acquired by Teva — asked the F.D.A. not to list an implantation effect on the label, The Times reported in 2012.


Experts said implantation was likely placed on the label partly because daily birth control pills, some of which contain Plan B’s active ingredient, appear to alter the endometrium, the lining of the uterus into which fertilized eggs implant. Altering the endometrium has not been proven to interfere with implantation. But in any case, scientists said that unlike the accumulating doses of daily birth control pills, morning-after pills do not have time to affect the uterine lining.


By 2007, evidence was accumulating that morning-after pills did not block implantation. In 2009 to 2010, during discussions about making Plan B available over the counter for all ages, Teva also asked that implantation be deleted from the label.



4) Merry Christmas! We’re All Being Murdered by Capitalism.

Here at The Intercept, we are committed to ruining the holidays.

Jon Schwarz, Elise Swain, December 24, 2022


KING OF PRUSSIA, PA - DECEMBER 11: Santa Claus opens a candy cane while waiting for the next photos with shoppers at the King of Prussia Mall on December 11, 2022 in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania. The country's largest retail shopping space, the King of Prussia Mall, a 2.7 million square feet shopping destination with more than 400 stores, is owned by Simon Property Group. (Photo by Mark Makela/Getty Images)

A depressed looking Santa Claus working in a shopping mall opens a candy cane while waiting for photos with shoppers in King of Prussia, Pa., on Dec. 11, 2022. Photo: Mark Makela/Getty Images

HERE AT THE INTERCEPT, our internal motto is “More Bad News for You, the Bad News Consumer.” We also sometimes refer to ourselves as “Your Daily Death March of Sorrow.”


That’s why, as you celebrate the holidays with your family, snuggling your loved ones close and putting out the cookies for Santa Claus, it’s on brand for us to remind you that capitalism is killing us all. 


So let’s get going. (If you’re not ready to dive in immediately, you can limber up by reading our previous yuletide bummer, “Merry Christmas! Remember the Children Who Live in Fear of Our Killer Drones.”)



Ho Ho Ho for Capitalism


Instead of the good news of Jesus, let’s start with the good news of capitalism. Even Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, not known as capitalism’s biggest fans, acknowledged it in “The Communist Manifesto” in 1848:


The bourgeoisie … has been the first to show what man’s activity can bring about. It has accomplished wonders far surpassing Egyptian pyramids, Roman aqueducts, and Gothic cathedrals.


The bourgeoisie, during its rule of scarce 100 years, has created more massive and more colossal productive forces than have all preceding generations together. What earlier century had even a presentiment that such productive forces slumbered in the lap of social labor?


The writer William Greider takes the same perspective in “Secrets of the Temple,” his gigantic tome about the Federal Reserve. Capitalism, he contends, was “a Faustian bargain. People surrendered control over their own lives and accepted a smaller role for themselves as cogs in the vast and complicated economic machinery, in exchange for mere material goods.” Nevertheless, you have to admit that “the devil certainly kept his half of the bargain.”


Take a look around where you’re sitting now and consider the huge quantities of crap just in your eyesight that you’ve accumulated, all thanks to capitalism. One of us (Jon) can see his iPad, which helps him understand the amount of grease his thumbs apparently exude. There’s his smoke detector, which is beeping in a vain plea to get him to replace its battery. And there’s the huge bag of chipotle powder that he bought in a burst of misguided enthusiasm in 2018, still four-fifths full. The other one of us (Elise) is sitting in fast-fashion polyurethane pants, made in Vietnam, that are already ruined and will eventually end up in the Great Pacific Trash Vortex. She’ll be spending her Christmas alone, traveling Italy, contributing to the tourist economy of a deeply neofascist government which hates journalists by buying large amounts of burrata, Aperol spritz, and whatever readily available substances she finds from the global market to numb the pain of living in such a society.


OK, those are the good parts of capitalism. Now let’s move on to the ones that risk the obliteration of Homo sapiens.


Covid-19 and Its Sequels


Our response to Covid-19 should make us dubious about our chances if we go up against something even deadlier. Only 5.5 billion people have gotten even one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, leaving billions more to host a constantly proliferating assortment of mutations. Already vaccines and therapeutics are less effective against new variants. 


With some bad rolls of the dice, we could be back to the world of March 2020, or worse. This scenario is increasingly likely considering climate change and globalization. Another accurate point in “The Communist Manifesto” is that “the need of a constantly expanding market for its products chases the bourgeoisie over the entire surface of the globe. It must nestle everywhere, settle everywhere, establish connections everywhere.”


Sure, we could have decided to vaccinate everyone. Last year, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development estimated this would cost $50 billion, or 0.05 percent of the world’s annual gross domestic product. But we didn’t do it for very good reason: This would have hurt the “intellectual” “property” — and hence the profits — of Moderna and Pfizer.


So the downside here is our unending Covid nightmare. The upside is we now have 10 vaccine billionaires! We’d like to believe they’re spending this Christmas Eve together, downing negroni sbagliatos somewhere on the Amalfi coast, toasting the freedom that is capitalism. (If you violate their vaccine patents, the government will crush you like a bug.)


Capitalism also means the proliferation of weapons with no purpose — not that they ever, really, have a purpose. One key reason the U.S. advocated the expansion of NATO was that it would open up new markets for American arms dealers. A little-known but significant figure named Bruce Jackson cofounded an NGO called the Committee to Expand NATO in 1996 — all the while serving as vice president for strategy and planning at Lockheed Martin. He was also co-chair of the finance committee for Bob Dole’s 1996 presidential campaign. Jackson was still at Lockheed in 2002, the year he became chairman of the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq.


This had led to many merry Christmases, indeed. With dividends reinvested, Lockheed’s stock is up over 1,600 percent since the liberation of Iraq commenced on March 19, 2003, It’s up 25 percent just since Russia’s attack on Ukraine last February. Jackson currently owns a chateau and vineyard in the Bordeaux region of France.


Moreover, it’s a fervently held belief at the top of American society that they are doing good by doing well. George W. Bush once told Argentina’s president that “all of the economic growth of the United States has been encouraged by wars.” Way to say the quiet part out loud, again and again.


And it’s not just conventional arms that are profitable. Building nuclear weapons systems is also quite lucrative. With these kinds of financial incentives in place, it’s incredible that human civilization still exists. 


But of course, we could go at any moment. The U.S. military is likely to secure $858 billion for its budget next year. At $150,000 apiece, this is enough to fire 57 million Hellfire missiles at Santa’s sleigh as he speeds in terror across the winter sky.


Global Warming, Plus Bigger Problems


This is the one problem of capitalism where we’d really like to beg the Gods — Christian/Jewish/Muslim, Hindu, Norse, Mesopotamian, miscellaneous — for a Christmas miracle. The Earth, as we know it, is fucked. We’re currently at 417 parts per million of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, up from 280 ppm pre-capitalism. And that’s still not enough to satiate the shrieking, sucking mouth of the market. 


Russia sees the melting Arctic and has decided this is a wonderful opportunity to extract the region’s hitherto inaccessible oil. Burning this will melt the Arctic further, making more oil available, in a virtuous circle of suicide. While making false promises in the fight against the climate crisis, America took the lead in crude oil production last year. Right behind us are the world’s other oil producers, from the despots of Saudi Arabia to the bland democracy of Canada. It’s like a “Murder on the Orient Express”-style mystery, where humanity is killed by every passenger. 


It’s getting pretty close to night-night time for ocean life, most of the insects on Earth, half of the birds, too. Oh, and a third of the trees. When this will take out people is hard to predict, just as you never know which piece you have to remove to cause everything to collapse in a game of Jenga.


If you find this distressing, consider the more distressing fact that even if we develop massive amounts of green energy and stop global warming, capitalism will still probably destroy a livable biosphere.


The Terrifying Politics of Wanting, Wanting, Wanting


You probably don’t fantasize about how to decorate your mansion on Mars. This is because owning a Mars mansion has never seemed like a possibility in your life. But what if you were constantly bombarded with ads showing Matthew McConaughey in his luxurious nine-bedroom Mars home, living it up with all the Powerball winners who also live on the fourth planet from the sun?


While we Americans have spent our entire lives marinating in advertising tempting us with luscious products to consume, the truth is that humans do not have strong inherent desires for material goods. Let’s imagine humans in a world devoid of induced craving: We would probably work enough to have food to eat, live off the land, and spend the rest of the time futzing around (aka leisure).


How, then, could capitalists get people to work hard at extremely unpleasant jobs? For a long time, the answer was simple: slavery. But then, in the 19th century, slavery was driven to extinction in the Western hemisphere. During this time, there was surprisingly frank planning among capitalists about this aspect of human nature. Given this problem, how could they motivate people to do the same awful work enriching others without the threat of force? They decided one important tactic should be to “create wants.”


As a member of the British Parliament put it in 1833:


They [people formerly enslaved by the British Empire] must be gradually taught to desire those objects which could be attained by human labour. There was a regular progress from the possession of necessaries to the desire of luxuries; and what once were luxuries, gradually came, among all classes and conditions of men, to be necessaries. … This was the sort of education to which they ought to be subject.


A United Fruit staffer made the same point in the 1920s about Central Americans:


The mozos or working people have laboured only when forced to and that was not often, for the land would give them what little they needed. … The desire for goods, it may be remarked, is something that has to be cultivated. … Our advertising is slowly having the same effect as in the United States … All of this is having its effect in awakening desires.


By now capitalism has truly perfected the creation of wants. They’re as much a part of those of us in rich countries as our arms or legs. We will resist anyone telling us we should give up these wants, as much as we’d resist someone trying to cut off our limbs. 


This is surely a part of the recent rightward lurch in politics in the U.S. and elsewhere. Progressive politics necessarily makes the case that there’s more to life than the money in your individual bank account. It’s inevitable that many people will experience this as psychological violence and respond in kind, or with real violence. 


Stay tuned to find out how this dynamic will interact with all the capitalistic crises heading our way. 


Now Dasher, Now Prancer, Now Insoluble Dilemma 


Traditionally this is the part of the article where we describe the uplifting solution to the aforementioned problem. Here’s what we’ve got for you:




[faint sound of coughing]



The literary critic Fredric Jameson has famously said, “It is easier to imagine the end of the world than to imagine the end of capitalism.” Capitalism isn’t just outside of us, it’s inside too. It’s grown in us like an aggressive tumor, twining around our organs until it’s hard to know where it stops and we begin. It’s killing us, but cutting it out might kill us too.


So, uh, Merry Christmas. No need to thank us for this atrocious conclusion. Here at The Intercept, we don’t need thanks for getting up every day and doing our job. But that Jameson quote reminds us that a big bottle of Jameson whiskey can be ordered online for $56.92 (if you’ve got the money).



5) Who Do the Cops Protect? 82-Year-Old Alabama Woman Arrested for Overdue Trash Bill

Neighbors expressed outrage at local Alabama police for arresting an 82-year-old Black woman for not paying her trash collection bill. The police chief, mayor, and local court system continue to say it was justified.

By Daniel Werst, December 25, 2022


The local government of Valley, Alabama, sent two cops to the home of Martha Menefield, an 82-year-old Black woman living alone, to arrest her for failing to pay $77.80 worth of garbage collection fees.

On November 27, the local government of Valley, Alabama caused a scandal by sending two cops to the home of Martha Menefield, an 82-year-old Black woman living alone, to arrest her for failing to pay $77.80 worth of garbage collection fees. Locals and online commenters slammed the Valley Police Department (VPD), and the story was picked up by the Washington Post and NBC. The police actually cuffed Menefield’s hands, but in front of her body “in recognition of a lower threat.” One cop had the temerity to whisper, “Don’t cry, Ms. Martha,” while arresting her. Menefield was placed in a station cell, and was bailed out soon after.


VPD chief Mike Reynolds tried to nip public criticism in the bud with a statement asserting municipal code enforcement officials repeatedly tried to contact Menefield about outstanding bills, before leaving a card on her front door summoning her to a court hearing. He said Menefield was chronically late paying her trash bill over the last fifteen years, implying that the arrest was justified because the court had issued an arrest warrant for failure to appear.


Bourgeois media provided some sense of the tragicomedy of arresting a person of such advanced age for such a trivial “crime” quoting neighbors criticizing the city and expressing appreciation for Menefield. But the bourgeois press won’t touch the idea that this inappropriate arrest is one reflection of whether or not police really “protect and serve” the general population.


Menefield asked why the city did not just halt her trash service rather than arrest her. Basic services like trash pickup ought to be free, especially for elderly and working class people. The city government stole one day of this woman’s limited final years on earth to subject her to Kafkaesque harassment. However, one local reporter saw garbage workers collect Menefield’s trash after the arrest, either out of solidarity or because the city wanted to limit negative publicity.


Menefield grew up under Jim Crow. Her parents worked as a house painter and a cook, which a local station bizarrely described as a “middle class” background. In the USA, everyone except Jeff Bezos and unhoused people are supposed to be “middle class” for political reasons, but this is a description of being working class. For most of her adult life Menefield was a care worker for elderly people and children. Mainstream news coverage did not ask why she may have struggled to pay $78 in service bills. They did not discuss inflation and other factors threatening people’s ability to pay living expenses. Menefield also had her water service shut off, and had occasionally had to go to neighbors for help.


The city spent much more than $78 of residents’ tax money on two cops, jail, court time, paperwork, and public relations to harass Menefield. Bullying an 82-year-old working class woman with late bills puts the lie to the police propaganda that cops are meant to protect us from violence. Marxism understands that the capitalist state is a hypocritical, inevitably abusive machine. Its forms of “legality” serve the very rich, even as they profit from climate change, force people to work twelve hour shifts, and cause preventable deaths from inadequate healthcare. The state elevates officials, including cops, into a position of superiority, unaccountability, and contempt towards working people, particularly those who are oppressed on the basis of race, gender, and other dividing lines.


No reasonable person would ever have consented to arrest Martha Menefield. A logical society would easily organize a little cooperation to help a retiree with a trivial household problem. The cops and the courts are put together in a way that goes outside basic social expectations. Their job is not to serve and protect anyone but the ruling class.


A receptionist at the county court told the Washington Post that since Menefield’s arrest, “There have been a million people offering to pay her bill,” yet the local government will not accept the payment until Menefield appears as a defendant at a January hearing. Mayor Leonard Riley came out in defense of the arrest and attacked Menefield, saying that she ran a lucrative tax preparation business from her home without a license, received a pandemic PPP government loan, and “should be able to pay [her] garbage bill.”


This shameful use of police power is not an exception. The police are intended to maintain and regulate capitalism: it is common for them to micromanage people’s lives, and even commit violence against the elderly. Cops in Arizona arrested a 78-year-old woman this year for giving free hot meals to homeless people in a public park. Alabama police arrested two women aged 61 and 85 for feeding stray cats. In recent years, police have also cracked the skull of a 75-year-old Black Lives Matter protester in New York state, broken the arm of a mentally disabled 75-year-old woman in Colorado, and shot a 61-year-old man dead in his wheelchair in Arizona.


Black Lives Matter. The dignity of people who have worked their entire lives matters. The police have no right to exist — in Valley, Alabama or anywhere.