Bay Area United Against War Newsletter, December 31, 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) As a Researcher, I Study the Health of Palestinians. It’s Time to Pay Attention.

By Yara M. Asi, Dec. 29, 2022

Ms. Asi is an assistant professor at the University of Central Florida’s School of Global Health Management and Informatics.

A Palestinian man carrying plastic bags walks over a dirt mound blocking a road.
The closed main entrance to the city of Nablus in the West Bank, Oct. 25, 2022. Credit...Samar Hazboun for The New York Times

This year, during the lead-up to the Israeli elections, I returned to my hometown, Nablus, in the occupied West Bank, to work on a research project and spend time with my family there. I had received a grant to study the impact on Palestinians’ health of Israel’s restrictions on Palestinians’ movement — such as checkpoints, travel permits (including those required for medical care), the separation wall spanning the West Bank and road closures.


My previous work and the existing research done on Palestinian health and well-being gave me a good sense of what I would find: multiple burdens in access to health care and predictably high rates of depression, stress, anxiety and insecurity.


I expected to hear stories of struggle, loss and trauma. And I heard dozens of them, particularly among the young, who feel acute despair.


What I didn’t expect was that my trip would coincide with the deadliest month in the deadliest year for Palestinians in the West Bank since 2006: At least 150 have been killed so far in 2022, including more than two dozen children, almost all as a result of Israeli military violence. Or just how directly I would experience the day-to-day violence that defines the lives of Palestinians.


As talk swirls of even more severe crackdowns on Palestinians from the extreme right-wing coalition created by Benjamin Netanyahu, who is soon to be the prime minister of Israel again — and maybe even of the often predicted third intifada, or uprising — it’s important to stop and take stock of how bad things have already been for Palestinians in the West Bank — especially in 2022.


A few weeks into my trip, Nablus, a city of about 160,000, was blockaded by the Israeli Army in efforts to quell the Lion’s Den, a newly formed Palestinian armed resistance group based there. The city was effectively cut off from the rest of the West Bank — an occupied territory already cut off from the world in many ways — by the Israeli military, a closure that was not lifted until three weeks later. This meant that all vehicles leaving or entering the city were subject to hourslong waits and searches (including, sometimes, searches of Palestinians’ phones and social media accounts) or denied access to leaving or entering the city entirely. This had devastating effects on the city’s economy and blocked access to health care, education and social gatherings, not to mention immeasurable stress and uncertainty among the city’s residents.


The closure of the city at a time of already escalating military and settler violence was an act of violence in and of itself, a part of the collective punishment that is consistently justified on security grounds but operates under the assumption that all Palestinians are potential threats and must be treated as such.


Palestinian youth have never known free movement or life without the constant and violent rule of the Israeli military. This is the context in which the Lion’s Den, which has claimed responsibility for several shooting attacks on Israeli soldiers, has arisen. Israel’s most recent clampdown on the West Bank, including the siege of Nablus, is in large part meant to dissuade popular mobilization around these groups.


The crackdowns meant that all Palestinians had to adjust even the most minute aspects of their lives to avoid settler violence and encounters with the Israeli military, which is stationed all around the West Bank.


During the closure, life for many living in and around Nablus was essentially put on hold as they waited for the Israeli government, an entity that Palestinians have no power to elect and that has no accountability to them, to make the decision to lift the closure and allow life to go back to some semblance of normal. The closure happened during the beginning of the celebrated Palestinian olive harvest season, preventing many families, including mine, from gathering to pick their olives and subjecting those who dared to do so to an even greater risk of attacks from settlers. Everyone I talked to in Nablus said these were the worst conditions they could remember for decades — since the second intifada in the early 2000s, for those old enough to remember it.


As I conducted a series of focus groups with doctors, nurses, patients and medical faculty members and students, it became clear that it was impossible for me to measure the extent of the damage caused by Israel’s lockdown. The unrelenting buzzing sound of Israel’s military surveillance drones, which patrolled Nablus 24/7 for weeks, for example — many people referred to it as a form of psychological torture. How can I measure that? For one focus group, a public health faculty member arrived 90 minutes late, explaining that the road she tried to take to enter the city was blocked by a checkpoint, so she had to go a different way, recounting the experience as casually as someone might describe mistakenly putting on two mismatched socks. What does it say about a population’s psyche when events like these are normalized?


I have long felt a responsibility to convey the reality of the situation for Palestinians not only as a researcher committed to justice and equity but also as someone whose family hails from the West Bank. I was born in Nablus to a woman from a nearby village and a man from a Palestinian town that was enveloped by Israel upon its establishment in 1948. My father taught journalism and political science in Nablus before he moved us to the United States, where I grew up. I’m now a professor myself, because I wanted to follow in his footsteps. I’m not a political scientist as my dad was; I’m a scholar of public health. Of course, the two subjects are intertwined in any setting: Health is inherently political. But in Nablus, I was reminded of just how deep that connection is.


That context has remained, for the most part, much the same for the past 50 years, with periods punctuated by slightly more freedom for Palestinians and other periods that featured heavy restriction and violence. I visited family in the West Bank every summer as a child and for most of my adult life. I remember the long, winding checkpoint lines, with hostile Israeli soldiers looking through our documents. I remember the electricity curfews imposed by Israel, leaving us to spend nights using only candles and lanterns. I remember being able to travel to the airport in Tel Aviv but having to switch taxis halfway through the journey to the West Bank because Palestinian taxis weren’t allowed to pick us up. Now I and others of Palestinian descent, regardless of citizenship or country of residence, aren’t even allowed to use that airport without special Israeli permission. Instead, because Israel bombed the last Palestinian airport and won’t allow construction of a new one, we travel in and out of the West Bank through Jordan. (A lucky few have recently been able to fly out of an airport in southern Israel.)


The last night before I was scheduled to leave, Israeli military forces raided the old city of Nablus, killing five Palestinians and injuring at least a dozen more. For me, it was a sleepless night, knowing what was happening just minutes away.


The next day, after many panicked calls with a taxi company, which assured me it could get me out of the city, I left. Unlike Palestinians forced to live under these conditions every day, my time there had an end date. Now I am left to examine and analyze my data.


Yet I recognize that there is no study, no matter how rigorous, that can capture what it feels like for Palestinians living under Israel’s more than half-century military occupation, especially in moments like this.


Perhaps the biggest struggle in my role as a scholar, however, is in making recommendations about what to do. Sure, some extra mental health facilities would help people deal with the trauma. Increased use of telehealth appointments might reduce the need for many Palestinians to travel for care. Targeted health promotion and prevention efforts would improve Palestinian health more broadly, making it less necessary to interact with their broken health system at all. The Palestinian Authority has not been active in making the efforts it could to improve Palestinian health with the limited tools it has, instead enriching the elite and increasing its security budget.


And yet none of these recommendations tackle the core barrier to Palestinian health, well-being and thriving. As a recent report on the mental health of Palestinians noted, “If the disease is political, then the solution also lies in the political: ending the occupation and eradicating the structures of repression and inequality.”


As international governments, media organizations and advocacy groups focus on the outcome of Israel’s recent elections, concerns over increased repression of Palestinians are valid, but they fail to fully recognize what took place just this past year. We need to worry about what’s to come, but we also cannot ignore the violence and heavy mental health strain that has already corroded yet another generation’s well-being and hope for a stable and dignified existence.


The closure of Nablus ended shortly after my return to the U.S., and the almost daily killing of Palestinians has now slowed down, albeit slightly. Palestinians are back to what the rest of the world often calls relative calm but in reality are circumstances that no population can or should accept. Looking only at physical well-being as it relates to the aftermath of shootings in the West Bank or bombing campaigns in the Gaza Strip flattens the experience of living, working, playing, raising children, going to school and trying to build a life in such an environment of uncertainty, trauma and violence. One that has lasted for decades and may easily last decades more.



2) In the Pacific, Outcry Over Japan’s Plan to Release Fukushima Wastewater

The proposal has angered many of Japan’s neighbors, particularly those with the most direct experience of unexpected exposure to dangerous levels of radiation.

“Motarilavoa Hilda Lini, a prominent politician and activist in Vanuatu, has said, ‘We need to remind Japan and other nuclear states of our Nuclear Free and Independent Pacific movement slogan: If it is safe, dump it in Tokyo, test it in Paris, and store it in Washington, but keep our Pacific nuclear-free.’”

By Pete McKenzie, Dec. 30, 2022


Tanks storing radioactive water at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan. The government plans to release the water, treated, but still slightly radioactive, into the Pacific starting in spring 2023.

Tanks storing radioactive water at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan. The government plans to release the water, treated, but still slightly radioactive, into the Pacific starting in spring 2023. Credit...Ko Sasaki for The New York Times


Examining a Marshall Islands baby. For decades after the 1954 test, the U.S. government sent doctors to the Marshall Islands to track the health of people exposed to the fallout. They found that many experienced severe cancers. Credit...Smith Collection/Gado, via Getty Images

Every day at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in Japan, officials flush over a hundred tons of water through its corroded reactors to keep them cool after the calamitous meltdown of 2011. Then the highly radioactive water is pumped into hundreds of white and blue storage tanks that form a mazelike array around the plant.


For the last decade, that’s where the water has stayed. But with more than 1.3 million tons in the tanks, Japan is running out of room. So next year in spring, it plans to begin releasing the water into the Pacific after treatment for most radioactive particles, as has been done elsewhere.


The Japanese government, saying there is no feasible alternative, has pledged to carry out the release with close attention to safety standards. The plan has been endorsed by the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog.


But the approach is increasingly alarming Japan’s neighbors. Those in the South Pacific, who have suffered for decades from the fallout of a U.S. nuclear test in the Marshall Islands, are particularly skeptical of the promises of safety. Last month, a group representing more than a dozen countries in the Pacific, including Australia and the Marshall Islands, urged Tokyo to defer the wastewater releases.


Now, Japan is poised to forge ahead even as it risks alienating a region it has tried in recent years to cultivate.


Nuclear testing in the Pacific “was shrouded in this veil of lies,” said Bedi Racule, an antinuclear activist from the Marshall Islands. “The trust is really not there.”


Much of that mistrust is rooted in the unlikeliest of events. In 1954, snow fell on the tropical atoll of Rongelap. Residents of the reef, in the Marshall Islands, had never seen such a thing. Children played in it; some ate it. Two days later, U.S. soldiers arrived to tell them the “snow” was actually fallout from America’s largest nuclear test, which took place on nearby Bikini Atoll and irradiated Rongelap after an unexpected change in wind direction.


In the test’s aftermath, hundreds of people suffered intense radiation exposure, leading to skin burns and pregnancy complications. Decades later, people of the Marshall Islands still feel its impact through forced relocations, lost land and heightened cancer rates. “You feel this deep sorrow,” Ms. Racule said. “Why were we not good enough to be treated like human beings?”


The people of the Marshall Islands were not the only ones affected. Twenty-three Japanese fishermen were sailing near Rongelap at the time. All suffered intense radiation sickness, and one died six months later as a result.


Their exposure led to Japan’s first large antinuclear protests.


“The whole antinuclear movement here in Japan came from the huge public mass actions after the Bikini Atoll testing,” said Meri Joyce, an antinuclear organizer at the Japanese activist group Peace Boat.


When asked about Pacific nations’ concerns, a representative for the Japanese Foreign Ministry said that as the only country to have suffered from atomic bombings in war and given its connection with the 1954 test, Japan empathized with their fears around radiation exposure.


That shared history and experience of nuclear exposure has contributed to some Pacific activists’ sense of betrayal. “Our Japanese friends and partners in the nuclear movement have been really fighting hard,” Ms. Racule said. “It feels like such a huge injustice.”


In a statement last year, Youngsolwara Pacific, a prominent environmental advocacy group, asked, “How can the Japanese government, who has experienced the same brutal experiences of nuclear weapons in both Hiroshima and Nagasaki, wish to further pollute our Pacific with nuclear waste? To us, this irresponsible act of trans-boundary harm is just the same as waging nuclear war on us as Pacific peoples and our islands.”


Pacific nations’ current frustration comes a year after Japan announced a “Pacific Bond” policy. The prime minister at the time, Yoshihide Suga, promised to take stronger action on climate change and to strengthen relationships with Pacific nations in what appeared to be an attempt to push back on growing Chinese influence in the region.


To soothe Pacific concerns, Japanese authorities emphasize that their analysis shows that the wastewater plan is safe. Almost all radioactive particles will be removed from the wastewater before it is released, except for a hydrogen isotope called tritium that Japanese experts and others say poses a relatively low health risk.


“By diluting the tritium/water mixture with regular seawater, the level of radioactivity can be reduced to safe levels comparable to those associated with radiation from granite rocks, bore water, medical imaging, airline travel and certain types of food,” Nigel Marks, a nuclear materials researcher and associate professor at Curtin University, said in a statement distributed by the Australian Science Media Centre.


Mr. Suga pledged to “do our utmost to keep the water far above safety standards.” The Japanese government sees no alternative to the releases other than vaporizing the wastewater, which would be similarly controversial. Storage is becoming difficult as land runs short around the Fukushima plant, whose reactors have been off-line since the earthquake and tsunami in March 2011, which caused a catastrophic electrical failure that led to the meltdown.


Rafael Mariano Grossi, the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, has said the plan “​​is in line with practice globally, even though the large amount of water at the Fukushima plant makes it a unique and complex case.”


“The release of wastewater from the Fukushima reactors is an unfortunate necessity,” Brendan Kennedy, a chemistry professor at the University of Sydney, said in the Australian group’s statement. “The volume of contaminated water makes long-term storage of this impractical.”


Other nuclear plants around the world routinely discharge treated wastewater containing tritium. Unlike other common radioactive particles, tritium replaces the hydrogen atoms in water molecules, allowing it to pass unaffected through normal radiation filters. As a result, according to Dr. Kennedy, it is “essentially impossible” to remove.


The efforts to win over skeptical Pacific leaders have not been helped by a previous lack of transparency. Until 2018, Tokyo Electric Power Company — which operates the Fukushima plant — indicated that the vast majority of the wastewater had already been treated. That year, however, the power company acknowledged that only a fifth had been treated sufficiently.


The Japanese Ministry of Economics, Trade and Industry subsequently said more than three-quarters of the wastewater still contained unsafe levels of radioactive material other than tritium because the company had not changed the decontamination system’s filters frequently enough. The company has promised to re-treat the wastewater before it is released.


Consequently, many in the Pacific remain suspicious. In its most recent request that Japan defer the planned releases, the Pacific Islands Forum, the region’s main diplomatic body, noted that a panel of experts it had appointed to scrutinize the plan said there was “insufficient data” to prove its safety.


Motarilavoa Hilda Lini, a prominent politician and activist in Vanuatu, has said, “We need to remind Japan and other nuclear states of our Nuclear Free and Independent Pacific movement slogan: If it is safe, dump it in Tokyo, test it in Paris, and store it in Washington, but keep our Pacific nuclear-free.”


The Japanese Foreign Ministry’s representative indicated that the government expects to proceed with the planned releases, subject to safety confirmation by the power company and the I.A.E.A. Last year, Mr. Suga, the former prime minister, said disposing of the wastewater was “a problem that cannot be avoided.”


But it seems increasingly likely that solving that problem will jeopardize Japan’s efforts to build closer bonds with its Pacific neighbors and exert greater influence in an increasingly contested region.


“It feels like such a huge injustice,” Ms. Racule said. “It’s almost like an arrogant display. That it doesn’t matter what we say, they still do what they want.”



3) Making Sense of a Senseless Conflict in Ukraine?

By David Finkel

CounterPunch, December 23, 2022


Fair warning: this is a seriously misguided and disorienting book, even though useful in a certain sense. It’s useful for some background material it presents, but (as we’ll see) in a severely one-sided way—and important for what it reveals of the impasse of a U.S. peace movement in facing a tragic war in which “our own” side is not the main imperial aggressor.

Evading this reality requires constructing a narrative that depicts Russia’s invasion of Ukraine—now becoming a wintertime medieval-type siege waged with 21st century military technology—as almost entirely a reaction to United States and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) provocation and intervention in Ukraine’s chaotic internal politics. It requires positing, therefore, that “diplomacy” between the U.S. and Russian great-power overlords is the only exit from a bloody disaster.

Laying out that case is the central task that the authors Medea Benjamin and Nicolas Davies set for themselves. And there’s no doubt that their work is finding a ready market in a peace movement milieu that generally knows little about eastern Europe or Russia’s own imperialist history. Our antiwar movement naturally knows much more about the U.S. record of aggressive wars and genocidal coups in the global South and the Middle East, understands all too well the cynical western rhetoric about a mythical “rules-based international order” (translation: the USA makes the rules and gives the orders,) and is prepared to accept the contention that Ukraine is basically more of the same.

Medea Benjamin, co-founder of the women-led CodePink organization, is a longtime well-respected antiwar activist. The group’s work exposing U.S. arms sales to Saudi Arabia, for example, enabling the mass slaughter of Yemeni civilians in that country’s civil war, has been powerful. It’s also in the forefront of the struggle for abolition of nuclear weapons, among other critically important issues of U.S. global policy.

It is inconceivable to me that Medea Benjamin would author a book on Yemen, say, in which actual Yemeni voices would be almost absent, and the people of Yemen treated as objects of heartfelt sympathy but not viewed as agents of their own freedom struggle. It will become apparent why I raise this point in the context of the present review of her book on the Ukraine war.

Since the onset of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Benjamin has been asked a basic question multiple times in person and in online forums: Is Ukraine a “real country” (contrary to Vladimir Putin’s claim,) and does it have the right to defend itself? To my knowledge, she consistently refuses to answer. As far as I know, the same is true of other peace movement groups with a similar orientation—RootsAction and World Beyond War, to be specific (both of which I’ve repeatedly queried on the subject.)

That’s why, before opening this book and to avoid prejudgment, I posed for myself the following questions:

1.     Do Benjamin and co-author Nicolas Davies address Ukraine’s right to defend itself, and if so, Ukraine’s right to obtain necessary weapons, and how?

2.     How many actual voices from Ukraine, and how many analytical and antiwar Russian views, are cited and uplifted in a book subtitled “making sense of a senseless conflict”?

Spoiler alert: the answers won’t be happy ones. But posing these issues is critical to provide context for discussing the authors’ own concluding section “How on Earth Will This End?” (pp. 179-182) and in particular their contention that “(w)ithout a peace agreement to end the war, both sides continued to endure immense losses and inflict immense damage.” (180)

In itself the latter statement is clearly true enough—especially as Russia’s inability to defeat Ukraine’s army has turned to a campaign to systematically freeze and starve Ukraine’s civilian population. But only if we agree that Ukraine’s war of national defense and survival is legitimate and entitled to get support wherever it can obtain it, can we hope to have a morally defensible discussion of what “peace agreement” might emerge from this carnage—above all with the approval of Ukraine’s government and people, based on their assessment of risk and rewards.

Obviously, there are limitations to what’s realistically possible. President Zelensky’s desire for a “no-fly” zone, for example, was never going to be met, given the danger of direct confrontation between Russian and Western air forces—nor could those of us on the left in solidarity with Ukraine endorse it. But appeals for “diplomacy” at all costs are unsustainable.

Such a discussion must address what kind of “diplomatic settlement” might actually hold, rather than just hitting a pause button to prepare the next even bloodier round. If “diplomacy” is to succeed, it clearly will require Russia’s permanent renunciation of its annexationist, openly proclaimed “right” to possess Ukraine. That must mean that the costs of continuing the invasion become unsustainable.

But without the essential premise of Ukraine’s right to defend its sovereignty and chart its own future, pleas for “negotiated peace” reduce to saying that the war needs to be settled between the great powers U.S./NATO and Russia. And opposing military aid to Ukraine means that its wishes are cut out of the equation. I’m afraid that’s just about where Benjamin and Davies land. The following paragraph, if read carefully, is telling:

“Westerners supporting endless shipments of weapons to Ukraine sincerely hoped to defend Ukrainian freedom and sovereignty. But calling on Ukrainians to keep fighting until they won a total victory over Russia and reclaimed Crimea and the Donbas could only lead to massive Ukrainian death and suffering, and an increasingly dangerous proxy war between nuclear superpowers that threatened the life of everyone on earth.” (180, emphasis added)

What’s wrong here? Almost everything—beginning with the premise that Ukrainians are being egged on to “keep fighting” for impossible objectives, against their own better judgment. This goes along with a widely circulated fable that Ukraine was all set for a negotiated deal very early on, but was instigated by Biden and Boris Johnson to pull out of a promising peace settlement. The authors summarize this story (pages 83-85) without confronting the detail that Russia would not renounce its annexationist claims on Ukraine.

Second, closely related to the first, is a view of the “proxy war” as the predominant factor in the conflict, in which Ukraine is seen as little more than a pawn subordinated to in a U.S./NATO drive to weaken and ultimately disintegrate the Russian Federation. Indeed, in the authors’ account even Russia has very little independent agency: Vladimir Putin’s pronouncements for example that Ukraine “was never a real country,” is “run by Nazis” and needs to be back in the Russian embrace are not mentioned, let alone taken as the existential threat they are to Ukraine’s people.

This is a very severe weakness, because the roots of the invasion in the multiple crises of Russia’s own mafia-type petro-capitalism and the Putin regime are essential to understand. The analyses of Russian leftist authors—Boris Kagarlitsky and Ilya Budraitskis, to name just two among many—are easily available in English online, but unmentioned in the book. Indeed, the authors’ sources do not include a single critical Russian voice.

This makes it all the more difficult to grasp the specific character of the war. The full extent of massacres of civilians at Bucha, Irpin, Izium and other Russian-occupied towns may have been revealed after Benjamin and Davies did most of their writing—but these war crimes flowed directly from the nature of an annexationist and bordering-on-genocidal invasion that the authors fail to confront. They do not endorse or justify the invasion, which the first sentence of Katrina vanden Heuvel’s Preface calls “Russia’s illegal, brutal assault on Ukraine” (5), but their (and her) analysis of it doesn’t go much beyond dissecting NATO’s provocative behavior.

Third, the appeal here to the fear of nuclear annihilation is not entirely honest. It is certainly true that so long as nuclear weapons exist, we all live under that threat. But it’s misleading to suggest that the danger has become so much greater during this war that Ukraine’s independence should be sacrificed to avoid it.

The nuclear powers themselves, for their own reasons, are avoiding such provocations. What’s more, Benjamin and Davies don’t acknowledge that a Russian victory would ratchet up tensions and the risks of escalation toward nuclear war. It’s also unfair to ignore the fact that Ukraine, after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, was one of only two countries in the world to give up nuclear weapons—along with post-apartheid South Africa. The ever-present nuclear war threat must not be leveraged to compel Ukraine to accept surrender or a bloody amputation.

Provocation and the War

Back to the beginning: The bulk of the book covers the background, with chapters on “How 2014 Set the Stage for War,” “The Success and Failure of the Minsk II Peace Plan,” “The Russian Invasion of Ukraine” and “NATO: Myth vs.Reality.”

As a quick primer or refresher course on NATO’s reckless expansion after 1991, violating promises that U.S. diplomats had made to Soviet leader Gorbachev—and at a time when NATO itself could reasonably have gone away, along with the Soviet bloc’s Warsaw Pact—this account has some value. But some questions aren’t posed: for example, since NATO’s expansion to the main eastern European states was substantially complete by 2004, it can hardly fully explain Russia’s behavior toward Ukraine from 2014 to the present.

In a paragraph revealing more than the authors may intend, they write:

“In 2004, seven more Eastern European countries joined, including the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. These countries had not only been part of the Soviet Union, but were already part of the Russian Empire during the Czarist era.” (105, emphasis added)

Indeed, they had been—and knowing what Russian rule had been like for some decades or centuries, they weren’t going back. The authors evidently regard this as a provocation to Russia, without regard for the concern these countries had for preserving their own independence. In writing that “(e)very country in Eastern Europe that joins NATO becomes a threat to Russia” and enhances “the danger of a civilization-ending nuclear war” (106), the authors disregard these nations’ well-rooted fears of Russia’s threat to their security and self-determination.

They do recognize that the invasion, “putting Russia into the role of aggressor…brought a tremendous jolt of unity to U.S.-European relations and gave NATO a new lease on life,” and as a further result “Sweden and Finland put in applications to join NATO, which NATO eagerly welcomed.” (115)

All these are Putin’s free gifts to western imperialism. Does it mean that NATO expansion is a good thing? No—what it does show is the burning necessity of a global antiwar movement worthy of the name that demands the defunding, disarming and dissolution of all great-power war blocs, first of all NATO and the Russian-led CSTO (Collective Security Treaty Organization). Only the power of mass movements in the main imperial powers can convince smaller nations living in their shadows of a positive alternative to throwing themselves under the dubious protection of one or the other.

We’ve known this since the days of the Cold War, and it’s just as true today as the war in Ukraine drags the world in a horrible direction—not really toward nuclear war, but toward the bitter political winter of a new Cold War.

Benjamin and Davies undoubtedly want to see a global movement to confront this danger. Unfortunately, the one-sided way they present the issues doesn’t point a way toward building it. Part of the problem I see is that they offer Ukraine and its people sympathy, but not solidarity. It’s astonishing that while opposing weapons for Ukraine, they don’t raise the most basic demand for the cancellation of Ukraine’s foreign debt, an essential first step toward meeting the colossal costs of reconstruction.

Missing voices

Here the questions I posed before opening the book are particularly relevant, and I’ve already indicated a partial answer: The question of the legitimacy of Ukraine’s military resistance remains not directly answered, and the number of Russian voices we hear is precisely zero.

What about the most important of all, Ukrainian voices? The answer is exactly one: Yurii Sheliazhenko, a principled pacifist and “war resister who continued to publicly oppose war while the bombs and shells were blasting around him.” (184) This is a view claiming a consistent conscientious objection to war and violence under all circumstances.

That’s a Ukrainian voice and viewpoint that surely deserves to be heard—but the only one? At a time when tens-of-thousands of Ukrainians from all walks of civilian life rushed to join the Territorial Defense Forces? When people have accomplished miracles of grassroots organization for mutual aid in their communities, and for sending material support to the front-line soldiers? When the great majority of Ukrainians have chosen the course of armed struggle to protect their nation, and the partial democracy they’ve achieved, over surrender and enslavement?

The absence of voices from the Ukrainian left is particularly crippling when it comes to the authors’ account of the chaotic events of the 2014 Maidan uprising, which they flatten into the story, too common in the western left, of a U.S.-sponsored and fascist-led “coup” against the elected Viktor Yanukovych government. (This is the simplistic mirror image of the U.S. State Department narrative of a unified popular democratic revolution.)

Suffice it to say here that there are reasons why the majority of Ukrainians from right-to-left on the political spectrum reacted furiously when Yanukovych made a last-minute switch from an agreement with the European Union to signing up with a Russian-organized Eurasian competitor. Ukrainian left activists don’t buy the “coup” story that it was all a CIA-State Department manipulation.

To attempt to understand the complex origins, the events and the struggles in eastern Ukraine following Maidan, it’s necessary to see what those activists have to say. And they’re readily available: to name one, Yuliya Yurchenko’s work, Ukraine and the Empire of Capital. From Marketisation to Armed Conflict (Pluto Press, 2018) lays out the story of the oligarchic-capitalist devastation of Ukraine after 1991 under “(t)he combination of ill-prescribed market transition reforms, loaned fund mismanagement and misappropriation by the kleptocratic ruling bloc.”

Yurchenko is among the members of the Ukrainian Sotsialny Rukh (Social Movement) group whose articles and interviews are readily available in English. This isn’t the place to explore many important details, but the point here is that Benjamin and Davies appear to be unaware of these sources—or else don’t care enough to consider them.

For readers who do care, the views of Ukrainian leftists are easily accessed in English. To give just one example, the issue of negotiations, and valuable empirical survey results on the attitudes of the Ukrainian population, are laid out by Denys Bondar and Zakhar Popovych: The left view on the prospects of peace negotiationsСоціальний рух (rev.org.ua)

Readers of this book will also learn nothing about Putin’s turning Belarus into a vassal regime (although its dictator Lukashenko hasn’t sent troops into the war, knowing how explosive the popular reaction might be,) or what conclusions people in Eastern Europe might draw from that, or from Russia’s intervention to crush a powerful labor-led 2021 popular uprising in Kazakhstan.

The authors conclude with an eloquent statement: “This tragedy was not driven by the desire of ordinary Russians to conquer Ukraine, nor any wish by ordinary Americans or Europeans to return to a world divided by a Cold War and an Iron Curtain.” (181)

With that sentiment, one hopes, we can all agree. The book’s failure, however, lies in giving no answers, or dreadfully wrong ones, to what “ordinary Americans or Europeans” should be trying to do about it, and refusing meaningful solidarity to what ordinary Ukrainians are actually doing. A peace movement worthy of the name, and capable of facing the enormous challenges that confront us in a world of intensifying imperialist rivalries, is going to have to do better than that.

David Finkel is an editor of Against the Current (https://againstthecurrent.org) and a member of the newly formed Ukrainian Solidarity Network (U.S.). The network’s mission statement and initial signers will be available shortly.



4) Wadiya Jamal, wife of jailed journalist, Mumia Abu-Jamal, unexpectedly dies shortly after a significant turn in husband’s case



Wadiya Jamal talks about her husband Mumia Abu-Jamal's mistreatment around his medical issues while in prison in 2015. Photo credit: The Mercury

For most of her adult life, Wadiya Jamal spent fighting for her husband’s release. Eleven days following a historic decision by a Philadelphia judge, she passes away.


On Friday, Jananza services for Mydiya Wadiya Jamal will be held in Philadelphia. Jamal was the wife of jailed journalist and political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal. She passed away this past Tuesday on December 27.


Outpourings of sympathy on Jamal’s death show her passing was unexpected. The Malcolm X Commemoration Committee posted in a Facebook message that they are “stunned and brokenhearted to learn of the sudden passing” of Jamal.


For over four decades, Jamal has been advocating for her husband to be released from jail for the 1983 murder conviction of Philadelphia police officer, Daniel Faulkner. The highly publicized case amplified years-long accusations by Black activists of corrupt law enforcement and elected officials targeting and detaining them on false charges. Abu-Jamal has maintained his innocence since his arrest.


Jamal was Abu-Jamal’s third wife. From this union, they birthed Dolly Samiyah Abdullah, known as “Goldii”. In 2015, Abdullah passed away after battling breast cancer diagnosed in 2011. At the time of her death, she was 36 years old.


For much of her public life, Jamal used her visibility to advocate for her husband. In 1981 at the height of Abu-Jamal’s journalism career for his coverage of the MOVE 9 case, he was arrested for the Faulkner murder. MOVE was a Philadelphia-based Black liberation, naturalist, and environmental justice group. At the time of Abu-Jamal’s detainment, nine of the MOVE members were convicted in 1980 for the murder of James Rump, a Philadelphia cop. Rump died during an exchange of gunfire between MOVE and police in 1978. The confrontation occurred when city officials attempted to evict the group from their property.


Defendants in the MOVE 9 trial repeatedly pointed out how mainstream media’s reporting was biased, and eventually detrimental to their case’s outcome. “A lot of that negative press is what led up to the things that happened to MOVE over the years,” Davis Africa Jr. said in an interview years-before concerning coverage of the MOVE 9 trials. “That negative press is what gave people the justification to spew their hatred, and their racism, and their anger, and all of that stuff.”


At the time of his arrest, Abu-Jamal, a former member of the Black Panther Party of Self Defense, was the president of the Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists and a syndicated correspondent for a number of publications including National Public Radio, National Black Network, Mutual Black Network, and Associated Press Radio. With this background, he presented MOVE defendants drastically different from local news outlets such as the Philadelphia Inquirer.


Ironically, it would be the same news agency that would report negatively about his case, often depicting him as a criminal and Jamal without much regard. For over 40 years, a number of activists, celebrities, law experts, and as of late, a sitting judge, have called for the release of Abu-Jamal due to the faulty evidence of the case, which includes a trail of misconduct by law enforcement.


‘Free Mumia’. Justice postponed


Jamal’s passing occurred days after Judge Lucretia Clemons ruled that Philadelphia’s District Attorney share all of its files with Abu-Jamal’s defense team, including unseen documents uncovered in 2019. It was discovered that at least six boxes of exculpatory evidence were found in the D.A.’s office containing information of officer misconduct, bribery and judicial prejudice.


Johanna Fernández, CUNY Baruch professor and longtime friend of Abu-Jamal said that the “smoking gun” found in the recovered boxes is a handwritten letter by the star witness, Robert Chobert, who said he saw Abu-Jamal on the night of the murder. In the letter, Chobert asks the lead prosecutor, Joe McGill, “Where is my money?” Prof. Fernández explained to Democracy Now that Abu Jamal’s lawyers argue that the correspondence shows Chobert was bribed.


As well, another star witness, Cynthia White, was a sex worker facing time for multiple charges, is believed to have traded testimony to remove 30-plus violations.


Included in the evidence, was an affidavit released in early 2000s, of a court stenographer named Terri Maurer-Carter. In her testimony, she overheard the presiding Common Pleas judge in the Abu-Jamal case, Albert F. Sabo say ,“I’m going to help them fry the nigger.” The comment indicated his intentions of manipulating the jury’s decision in the Abu-Jamal case. Maurer-Carter’s affidavit was thrown out, but with the release of the boxes changes this action.


While Abu-Jamal’s case gets a break, he mourns his wife’s death with family and friends. Jamal’s Jananza (Muslim burial) will be held at the Khadijah Alderman Funeral Home. The viewing is from 9 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. with prayer following.


Notes from Jesse Shramenko contributed to this article



5) There Has Never Been a Better Time to Be Short

By Mara Altman, Jan. 1, 2023

Ms. Altman is a writer and the author of “Gross Anatomy.” 


An illustration of primates evolving into men on a green background.

Illustration by Sam Whitney/The New York Times; images by Man_Half-tube, via Getty Images

From where I stand — at five feet even — being tall is a widely held fantasy of superiority that long ago should have been retired.


It made sense to fawn over height when it facilitated survival. Ages ago, when the necessity of defending oneself cropped up daily, if not hourly, tall people could more easily protect their families and bring home some woolly rhino flank. Today, those who have the stamina to sit in an office chair all day bring home the plastic-wrapped meats.


There is an ongoing debate about the stature of a population and what it means for the prosperity and fairness of a nation, but I’m interested in shortness on an individual level. Our success as individuals does not depend on beating up other people or animals. Even if it did, in an era of guns and drones, being tall now just makes you a bigger target.


In “Size Matters,” the journalist Stephen S. Hall wrote that in the 18th century Frederick William of Prussia paid exorbitant sums to recruit “giant” soldiers from around the globe, institutionalizing “the desirability of height for the first time in a large, postmedieval society” and attaching tangible value to inches that would reverberate into modern times.


The echoes of these early human desires and biases have stuck in our minds like a particularly catchy marketing jingle, so much so that we vote for tall candidates assuming that they are better leaders and often choose tall people as partners with no definitive data that they make better spouses. John Kenneth Galbraith, the 6-foot-8-inch economist and diplomat, suggested that favoring the tall was “one of the most blatant and forgiven prejudices in our society.” Others go to extremes in pursuit of a few extra inches — more and more people are spending as much as $150,000 to get excruciating limb-lengthening surgeries, and parents give their healthy children growth hormone treatments with unknown side effects.


I know this because I was one of those children. As a preteen I injected Humatrope into my thighs for three and a half years, at the behest of my parents, who feared I’d be alienated for being short. I understand why they felt that way, given how short people are treated in our society — a song with the lyric “Short people got no reason to live” was No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 just a few years before I was born.


Now I have twins who are among the smallest in their kindergarten class, but instead of preparing to medicate them because of an antiquated societal bias, I’m going to let them be as they are: tiny. Because short is better, and it is the future.


We only talk about short stature in a positive light once every four years, when Simone Biles dazzles us in a leotard. That has left the many advantages enjoyed by short people underappreciated. On average, short people live longer and have fewer incidences of cancer. One theory suggests this is the case because with fewer cells there is less likelihood that one goes wrong. I’d take that over dunking a basketball any day.


The short are also inherent conservationists, which is more crucial than ever in this world of eight billion. Thomas Samaras, who has been studying height for 40 years and is known in small circles as the Godfather of Shrink Think, a widely unknown philosophy that considers small superior, calculated that if we kept our proportions the same but were just 10 percent shorter in America alone, we would save 87 million tons of food per year (not to mention trillions of gallons of water, quadrillions of B.T.U.s of energy and millions of tons of trash).


“I don’t want tall people to feel bad about themselves,” Samaras said, sincerely, “but the time is right to be short.”


Parents boast about how their kids “eat them out of house and home” and grow out of shoes the very week a new pair is bought as if it’s a badge of honor. My children eat like gerbils — it’s fine, they are healthy — and because of their low percentiles we save money and food, and they fit into the same pair of shoes for a year. Growing like a weed? No, thanks. I’ll take growing like a cactus.


Short people don’t just save resources, but as resources become scarcer because of the earth’s growing population and global warming, they may also be best suited for long-term survival (and not just because more of us will be able to jam into spaceships when we are forced off this planet we wrecked). Yuval Noah Harari, in his book “Sapiens,” wrote about a population of early humans who inhabited an island called Flores. Because of a rise in sea level, the island was cut off from other land masses.


“Big people, who need a lot of food, died first,” Mr. Harari wrote.


After generations, the people on the island evolved to reach only three and a half feet tall. They could do everything bigger humans could — make tools, hunt — but they could also stay alive when times got tough.


When you mate with shorter people, you’re potentially saving the planet by shrinking the needs of subsequent generations. Lowering the height minimum for prospective partners on your dating profile is a step toward a greener planet.


Nancy Blaker, a Netherlands-based researcher who at one time studied social status, said that short men, counter to prevailing stereotypes, may “compensate” for being short by developing positive attributes. “It’s not about being aggressive and mean,” she said; “short men behave in smart strategic ways and that can also mean being prosocial.”


My husband, who is 5-foot-6, said it would have been easier to be tall than to have had to put effort into developing his wit, but I know we wouldn’t be married if he didn’t make my cheeks hurt from smiling so hard on our first date.


The problem is we are still under the illusion, as a general principle, that more always adds value. It was my former endocrinologist from Rady Children’s Hospital in San Diego, Alberto Hayek, who laid it out for me. When I tracked down the doctor, who is now retired, I asked why parents whose children have no underlying medical conditions sought growth hormone treatment for them. He said the pursuit of height made sense in a capitalistic society. “Everything is big,” he said, “the buildings, the businesses,” and went on to explain that parents reflect the mind-set that bigger is better when envisioning their offspring.


Another endocrinologist, Adda Grimberg, the scientific director of the Growth Center at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, said that though heightism exists, concerned parents wrongly think height is the key to success and belonging. “There are some short people who thrive and do phenomenally well and lead fantastic lives, and there are some tall people who are miserable,” Dr. Grimberg said. “It’s not the height in and of itself that determines the outcome.”


I agree. As a short person, I’ve found the only thing I can’t do is grab things off high shelves. But that works out fine at the grocery store because tall people love to reach for things — it makes them feel like their excessive limbs still have purpose.


In some corners of the world, a celebration of short stature is actually happening. Arne Hendriks, a 6-foot-4-inch lecturer and artist, uses performance and exhibitions to encourage people to embrace fewer inches. He’s even restricted dairy from his sons’ diets and only allows them minimal sugar in an attempt to limit their growth, saving them from the ills of height. “It’s time for tall people to get off our high horses,” Mr. Hendriks said. “Don’t be overly confident when you are tall because you are probably going to die younger, have more health problems and you are polluting more.”


The future I envision is different: I want my children’s children to know the value of short. I want them to call themselves “short drinks of water” with “legs for minutes.” While one yells, “I’m the shortest,” I hope the other will bend his knees to gain an advantage, shouting, “No, I’m the shortest!”



6) As Lula Becomes Brazil’s President, Bolsonaro Flees to Florida

Brazil inaugurates its new president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, on Sunday. Facing investigations, former President Jair Bolsonaro has taken refuge in Orlando.

By Jack Nicas and André Spigariol, Jan. 1, 2023

Jack Nicas and André Spigariol reported this story from Brazil’s capital, Brasília.


Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva celebrating his win in the presidential election in São Paulo, Brazil, in October.

Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva celebrating his win in the presidential election in São Paulo, Brazil, in October. Credit...Victor Moriyama for The New York Times

BRASÍLIA — President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva is expected to take the reins of the Brazilian government on Sunday in an elaborate inauguration, complete with a motorcade, music festival and hundreds of thousands of supporters filling the central esplanade of Brasília, the nation’s capital.


But one key person will be missing: the departing far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro.


Without him, there will be no ceremonial passing of the presidential sash on Sunday, an important symbol of the peaceful transition of power in a nation where many people still recall the 21-year military dictatorship that ended in 1985.


Instead, Mr. Bolsonaro woke up Sunday 6,000 miles away, in a rented house owned by a professional mixed-martial-arts fighter a few miles from Disney World. Facing various investigations from his time in his office, Mr. Bolsonaro flew to Orlando on Friday night and plans to stay in Florida for at least a month.


Mr. Bolsonaro had questioned the reliability of Brazil’s election systems for months, without evidence, and when he lost in October, he refused to concede unequivocally. In a sort of farewell address on Friday, breaking weeks of near silence, he said that he tried to block Mr. Lula from taking office but failed.


“Within the laws, respecting the Constitution, I searched for a way out of this,” he said. He then appeared to encourage his supporters to move on. “We live in a democracy or we don’t,” he said. “No one wants an adventure.”


That message did not appear to resonate with many supporters. Thousands remained camped outside the army headquarters in Brasília, as they have been since the election, many saying they were convinced that at the final moment on Sunday, the military would prevent Mr. Lula from taking office.


“The army will step in,” said Magno Rodrigues, 60, a former mechanic and janitor who gives daily speeches at the protests. “The army has patriotism and love for the country, and in the past, the army did the same thing.” He was referencing the 1964 military coup that ushered in the dictatorship.


Mr. Rodrigues has spent the past nine weeks camped outside the army headquarters, sleeping in a tent on a narrow pad with his wife. He provided a tour of the encampment, which had become a small village since Mr. Bolsonaro lost the election. It has showers, a laundry service, cellphone-charging stations, a hospital, 28 food stalls and even a system for relieving himself inside the tent.


The Brazilian Army has allowed the protesters to remain but has shown no signs of intervening in the government handover. The protests have been overwhelmingly nonviolent — with more praying than rioting — but a small group of people have set fire to vehicles. Mr. Lula’s transitional government has suggested that the encampments will not be tolerated for much longer.


How long was Mr. Rodrigues prepared to stay? “As long as it takes to liberate my country,” he said, dressed in a leather jacket and leaning on a cane outside the portable toilets. “For the rest of my life if I have to.”


Elsewhere in Brasília, it was a party. Hundreds of thousands of people streamed into the sprawling, planned capital, founded in 1960 to house the Brazilian government, with many dressed in the bright red of Mr. Lula’s leftist Workers’ Party.


Passengers on arriving planes broke into rally songs about Mr. Lula, revelers danced to samba at New Year’s Eve parties and, across the city, spontaneous cries rang out from balconies and street corners, heralding Mr. Lula’s arrival and Mr. Bolsonaro’s exit.


“Lula’s inauguration is mainly about hope,” said Isabela Nascimento, 30, a software developer walking to the festivities on Sunday. “I hope to see him representing not only a political party, but an entire population — a whole group of people who just want to be happier.”


Mr. Lula, 77, completes a stunning political comeback on Sunday. He was once Brazil’s most popular president, leaving office with an approval rating above 80 percent. He then served 580 days in prison, from 2018 to 2019, on corruption charges that he accepted a condo and renovations from construction companies bidding on government contracts.


After those convictions were thrown out because the Supreme Court ruled that the judge in Mr. Lula’s case was biased, he ran for the presidency again — and won.


Mr. Lula and his supporters maintain that he was the victim of political persecution. Mr. Bolsonaro and his supporters say that Brazil now has a criminal as president.


The absence of Mr. Bolsonaro and the presence of thousands of protesters who believe the election was stolen illustrate the deep divide and tall challenges that Mr. Lula will now face in his third term as president of Latin America’s biggest country and one of the world’s largest democracies.


He oversaw a boom in Brazil from 2003 to 2011, but the country was not nearly as polarized then, and the economic tailwinds were far stronger. Mr. Lula’s election caps a leftist wave in Latin America, with six of the region’s seven largest countries electing leftist leaders since 2018, fueled by an anti-incumbent backlash.


Mr. Bolsonaro’s decision to spend at least the first weeks of Mr. Lula’s presidency in Florida also shows his unease about his future in Brazil. Mr. Bolsonaro, 67, is linked to five separate inquiries, including one into his release of documents related to a classified investigation, another on his attacks on Brazil’s voting machines and another into his potential connections to “digital militias” that spread misinformation on his behalf.


As a regular citizen, Mr. Bolsonaro will now lose the prosecutorial immunity he had as president. Some cases against him will probably be moved to local courts from the Supreme Court.


Some top federal prosecutors who have worked on the cases believe there is enough evidence to convict Mr. Bolsonaro, particularly in the case related to the release of classified material, according to a top federal prosecutor who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss confidential investigations.


It is unlikely that Mr. Bolsonaro’s presence in the United States could protect him from prosecution in Brazil. Still, Florida has become a sort of refuge for conservative Brazilians in recent years.


Prominent pundits on some of Brazil’s most popular talk shows are based in Florida. A far-right provocateur who faces arrest in Brazil for threatening judges has lived in Florida as he awaits a response to his political asylum request in the United States. And Carla Zambelli, one of Mr. Bolsonaro’s top allies in Brazil’s Congress, fled to Florida for nearly three weeks after she was filmed pursuing a man at gunpoint on the eve of the election.


“We have freedom here,” said Rodrigo Constantino, a prominent Brazilian right-wing commentator who lives near Miami.


Mr. Bolsonaro plans to stay in Florida for one to three months, giving him some distance to observe whether Mr. Lula’s administration will push any of the investigations against him, according to a close friend of the Bolsonaro family who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private plans.


“He will try to stay low for a while — to disappear,” Mr. Constantino said.


On Saturday, Mr. Bolsonaro greeted his new neighbors in the driveway of his rented Orlando house, many of them Brazilian immigrants who took selfies with the departing president. He then went to a KFC to eat.


It is not uncommon for former heads of state to live in the United States for posts in academia or similar ventures. But it is unusual for a head of state to seek safe haven in the United States from possible prosecution at home, particularly when the home country is a democratic U.S. ally.


Mr. Bolsonaro and his allies argue that he is a political target of Brazil’s left and particularly Brazil’s Supreme Court. They have largely dropped claims that the election was rigged because of voter fraud, but instead now claim that it was unfair because Alexandre de Moraes, a Supreme Court justice who runs Brazil’s election agency, tipped the scales for Mr. Lula.


Mr. Moraes was an active player in the election, suspending the social-media accounts of many of Mr. Bolsonaro’s supporters and granting Mr. Lula more television time because of misleading statements in Mr. Bolsonaro’s political ads. Mr. Moraes has said he needed to act to counter the antidemocratic stances of Mr. Bolsonaro and his supporters. Some legal experts worry that he has abused his power, often acting unilaterally in ways that go far beyond that of a typical Supreme Court judge.


Still, Mr. Bolsonaro has faced widespread criticism, on both the right and the left, for his response to his election loss. After suggesting for months he would dispute any loss — firing up his supporters and worrying his critics — he instead went silent, refusing to acknowledge Mr. Lula’s victory publicly. His administration carried out the transition as he receded from the spotlight and many of his official duties.


On Saturday night, in his departing speech to the nation, even his vice president, Hamilton Mourão, a former general, made clear his views on Mr. Bolsonaro’s final moments as president.


“Leaders that should reassure and unite the nation around a project for the country have let their silence or inopportune and harmful protagonism create a climate of chaos and social disintegration,” Mr. Mourão said.