3/23/2023

Bay Area United Against War Newsletter, March 23, 2023

           


SHUT DOWN DRONE WARFARE
Spring Action Week:  April 15 - 22, 2023
Holloman AFB, Southern New Mexico

Co-sponsored by CODEPINK & Ban Killer Drones

Mark your calendars & Join Us! 

Come for all or part of the week!

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Public complaint about the health condition of Venezuelan diplomat Alex Saab, illegally imprisoned in the United States

On Friday, March 16, 2023, Camilla Saab made an urgent call to the world to denounce the dire health condition of Venezuelan diplomat Alex Saab, which endangers his life.

In July 2021, the Working Group against Torture and several UN rapporteurs expressed their concern about the irreparable deterioration of Alex Saab's health condition.  

Let us recall that in Cape Verde, on July 7, 2021, after many refusals, Alex Saab was visited by his family doctor, who, in his report, detected a worrying health condition of the Venezuelan official, especially because Saab is a stomach cancer survivor. The doctor diagnosed: anemia, anorexia, diabetes mellitus type 2, hypothyroidism, hypertension, and high risk of thromboembolic disease, including pulmonary embolism and deep vein thrombosis. In addition, he highlighted that a high infection by the bacterium Helicobacter pylori was found in his blood, and an endoscopy identified bleeding from the digestive tract that could mean a recurrence of cancer. Saab's lower left molar was found broken due to the beatings received during the torture, and access to proper medical care was recommended. However, he was never allowed to receive treatment.  

Subsequently, the treating physician issued, on September 9, 2021, a new report highlighting the need for patient Alex Saab to receive specialized medical care and asked the authorities of Cape Verde to consider the need to preserve the health and life of Alex Saab. Cape Verde did nothing in this regard.  

Alex Saab arrived in the United States, kidnapped for the second time on October 16, 2021, and from that moment until today, he has not received any medical attention according to the primary diseases that had been reported, ignoring the call of the UN rapporteurs. Alex Saab is in the Federal Detention Center in Miami, and his prison situation is even worse than in Cape Verde: he has not been allowed family visits. He has not seen his wife and children, who have also been victims of persecution by the U.S. authorities and their allies, for more than two years and eight months. 

Alex Saab has also not been allowed consular visits, a human right of every prisoner deprived of liberty. The U.S. State Department has yet to respond to the Venezuelan State's request to grant him a consular visit, as established in Article 36 of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations.  

In the medical reports made in July, Alex Saab's doctor had already informed that they had identified bleeding from the digestive tract, which could mean a cancer recurrence. Now, it is highly alarming to learn that Alex has been vomiting blood for weeks, and despite having reported it to the U.S. authorities, there is still a lack of medical attention at the prison. Why has the U.S. not bothered to treat him?  

Everything indicates that the lack of medical attention is part of a State policy, as was his illegal arrest. Do U.S. authorities want Alex Saab dead? Why, then, the insistence on not providing him with medical attention and not allowing his doctor to visit him? 

Everyone knows that the truth is on the side of the Venezuelan diplomat, and sooner or later, the United States must release him, but they are taking more time than usual. Could it be that they are waiting for his illnesses to develop further? 

We, the #FreeAlexSaab Movement, hold the U.S. Government responsible for diplomat Alex Saab's life and what may happen to him during his illegal detention.

·      We ask that the International Committee of the Red Cross to be present at the Federal Detention Center in Miami-USA. 

·      We urge the High Commissioner of the UN Human Rights to take action and denounce this violation of the human rights of the Venezuelan diplomat illegally detained in U.S. territory. 

·      We request the Secretary General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, as the highest defender of International Law, to make an announcement on this case, which constitutes a flagrant violation of international law and human rights. 

·      We demand immediate freedom for Alex Saab Moran, the Venezuelan diplomat kidnapped in the United States. We urgently require a humanitarian, political, and diplomatic solution to this unjust situation. 

It is time to move forward. We urge the U.S. Government to sit down and reach an agreement. Venezuela has shown to be open to finding a solution.



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Previously Recorded

View on YouTube:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WeIfVB7IykQ

 

 

Featured Speakers:

 

Yuliya Yurchenko, Senior Lecturer at the University of Greenwich and author of Ukraine and the Empire of Capital: From Marketization to Armed Conflict.

 

Vladyslav Starodubstev, historian of Central and Eastern European region, and member of the Ukrainian democratic socialist organization Sotsialnyi Rukh.

 

Kirill Medvedev, poet, political writer, and member of the Russian Socialist Movement.

 

Kavita Krishnan, Indian feminist, author of Fearless Freedom, former leader of the Communist Party of India (ML).

 

Bill Fletcher, former President of TransAfrica Forum, former senior staff person at the AFL-CIO, and Senior Scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies.

 

Including solidarity statements from among others Barbara Smith, Eric Draitser, Haley Pessin, Ramah Kudaimi, Dave Zirin, Frieda Afary, Jose La Luz, Rob Barrill, and Cindy Domingo.

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Help U.S. Workers Visit Cuba on May Day


Los Angeles U.S. Hands Off Cuba committee members and supporters meeting to discuss solidarity with Amazon workers organizing unions and Cuba solidarity work.


World-Outlook is encouraging readers to donate to help workers from the United States, involved in union organizing efforts at Amazon warehouses, participate in an upcoming trip to Cuba. The Los Angeles US Hands Off Cuba Committee is organizing the delegation, which will coincide with May Day celebrations on the island.

There are many reasons to travel to Cuba. First and foremost, participants in a delegation such as this one will have the chance to see the Cuban Revolution for themselves; to meet and talk with Cuban workers, farmers, and political leaders. It is also a chance to show solidarity with the Cuban people who face Washington’s six-decades-long economic blockade, escalated in recent years by 243 new sanctions levied by the Trump administration, then continued and augmented by the Biden administration.

This 2023 May Day tour will be composed primarily of young people, unionists, and those seeking to build unions.

Nine Amazon workers involved in the Amazon Labor Union (ALU) at the JFK8 warehouse in Staten Island, New York — where last year workers won the first union representation election at an Amazon facility — plan to join the delegation. They include ALU president Chris Smalls and Cassio Mendoza, editor of the ALU newspaper. A worker at Amazon’s Moreno Valley ONT8 facility in the Los Angeles area also plans to participate.

Last week, three members of Carolina Amazonians United for Solidarity and Empowerment (C.A.U.S.E.), a group working to organize a union at an Amazon fulfillment center in Garner, North Carolina, said they too will join the delegation.

Other delegation members will include International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) workers, Steelworkers, L.A. teachers, and fifteen young activists from the Los Angeles Hands Off Cuba Committee.

The tour members will be in Cuba for the huge outpouring on May Day, the international workers holiday. A full schedule of political and cultural activities, including a meeting with the Confederation of Cuban Workers (CTC) is planned. The delegation will also meet with the Federation of Cuban Women (FMC), as well as visit the new Fidel Castro Museum and the Latin American School of Medicine (ELAM).

This fund-raising effort is specifically to help defray the expenses for the Amazon workers who need some help, as their pay does not allow for much disposable income. Your contribution will help the Amazon workers participate. The goal is to raise $4,500. As of today, $1,800 has been contributed so far. World-Outlook will donate $100.

The cost per person to participate in this 10-day trip is $1,300. That figure includes airfare, housing, food, and transportation in Cuba, museum admissions, and visas. Each Amazon worker is contributing a minimum of $500 for their expenses. Many of these Amazon workers have their airline tickets and passports ready but additional funds are needed to ensure their participation.

We encourage you to help.

There are two ways to donate:

1.     Go-Fund Me Account:

 https://gofund.me/071f0bc4

2.     Send a check to the LA Hands Off Cuba Committee made out to the group’s treasurer: 

             Diana Cervantes

             12206 Trinity St. 

             Los Angeles, CA 90061

Please share this appeal with friends, family, and fellow workers who may want to help.

In solidarity,

World-Outlook editors

—World-Outlook, March 2, 2023

https://world-outlook.com/2023/03/02/help-us-workers-visit-cuba-on-may-day/

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National Mobilization for Reproductive Justice

ReproJusticeNow.org info@reprojusticenow.org 

Facebook @ ReproJusticeNow

Statement to the Media

 

National Mobilization for Reproductive Justice

Email: info@reprojusticenow.org

Contact: Helen Gilbert (National Coordinator)

206-473-0630 (cell), 206-985-4621 (office)

 

For Release: Immediately

Interviews welcome

 

"Hands off abortion medications!" says National Mobilization for Reproductive Justice

Republican and rightwing pressure has intimidated the massive Walgreens drugstore chain from providing legal, safe and effective abortion drugs in 20 states, it was reported today. This comes even before a nationwide day of protests called on Saturday, March 4 by #StopAbortionRX, Students for Life of America and affiliated conservative and religious groups. Their “National Day of Protest to Cancel Abortion Cartels" targets CVS, Walgreens and Rite Aid.

 

The anti-abortion activists use inflammatory and untrue language in describing a common, safe and necessary medical procedure. Their tactic of trying to intimidate customers by demonstrating at entrances and inside stores is nothing but bullying. These actions have the potential to interrupt people’s access to needed medical prescriptions of all kinds. By demonstrating at the access point between pharmacist and patient, anti-abortionists contribute to an already broken US healthcare system.

 

The FDA-approved drugs mifepristone and misoprostol are used together to terminate a pregnancy. Mifepristone stops the body from producing a hormone necessary to an embryo’s development. Since 2000, it has been approved to end pregnancies up to 10 weeks after gestation. Misoprostol is used a few days later to help the body expel the tissue with more speed and safety. In 2020, 53% of all abortions in the U.S. were medication-induced, which has been shown to be safe and 90% effective. Medication abortions are also less expensive, more accessible, and more private than surgical abortions.

 

In tandem with physical harassment of people seeking anti-pregnancy drugs, legal harassment is threatening reproductive choices across all states. A federal court case lodged by Alliance Defending Freedom is pending in Texas, where a Trump-appointed, historically anti-abortion judge, Matthew Kacsmaryk, could reverse FDA approval for mifepristone. Medical experts say that inducing abortion with only misoprostol is less effective and more painful – adding punishment and abuse to the individual seeking relief.

 

A decision in the Texas case could come any time and could dramatically alter abortion access   at least as much as the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, which overturned decades of abortion-rights precedent.

 

These further attempts to undermine what should be rights to reproductive and bodily autonomy are an attack on all people’s healthcare needs. And opponents of reproductive justice won’t stop there. Also threatened are contraception, sex education, non-religious health care providers, and social services that are vital to safely bearing and raising children in marginalized communities. Reproductive justice also includes an end to forced sterilization, the right to gender-affirming care, support for LGBTQ+ families and children, and an end to immigration policies that separate families.

 

The National Mobilization for Reproductive Justice and its affiliates across the country vow to defend all forms of reproductive rights and bodily autonomy. See the Mobilization’s website, www.ReproJusticeNow.org, for information on meetings and activities, endorsers, resources and its full list of demands.

 

The National Mobilization for Reproductive Justice was initiated by Radical Women in 2021 in order to build a grassroots coalition of forces to defend reproductive rights. It has organized numerous actions and currently has more than 30 endorsing organizations from around the country including unions, and racial justice, LGBTQI+, religious, radical, and feminist groups. Click here to add your organization's endorsement.

 

Mailing Address:

National Mobilization for Reproductive Justice

4710 University Way NE #100

Seattle, WA 98105

 

Add us to your address book.

 

For more information

Phone: 206-985-4621

info@reprojusticenow.org

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Daniel Ellsberg Continues the Fight

Message sent by Kip Waldo

kwaldo@igc.org


(Message from Daniel Ellsberg Below)

 

At the beginning of March, Daniel Ellsberg sent a message to “friends and supporters” letting them know that he faces a life-ending medical condition—inoperable pancreatic cancer. He said that the doctors believe that he has another three to six months to live.

 

This letter, full of Dan Ellsberg’s passion and humor, reflect his concern for and sense of responsibility to people who have come to know him. It is a reflection of the man who risked his future with his release, in 1971, of 7000 pages of top-secret documents exposing the systematic policy of lies told to the U.S. population and the world about the U.S. war on Vietnam. Those papers, which became known as “The Pentagon Papers,” were published in a number of newspapers including the Washington Post, the New York Times—the two major East-coast newspapers in the U.S. at the time. Their publication served to change the perspective of many who still believed those lies. 

 

He knew the risk he was taking. It resulted in Nixon, who was the president at the time, branding him as the “most dangerous man in America” and launched a massive manhunt to bring him to trial for espionage. The charges against him, a total of 12 felonies, were dropped after he stood trial for four months. It was a lucky coincidence that investigations surrounding the impeachment of Nixon for orchestrating the burglary of Democratic Party headquarters revealed that Nixon’s operatives had also broken into the offices of Ellsberg’s psychiatrist in hopes of finding damning information. 

 

Instead of just breathing a sigh of relief at not having to spend the rest of his life in prison, Ellsberg continued on the path that his so-called treasonous act had set him on. He became one of the best-known public intellectuals in the U.S., sharing his understanding of the workings of the U.S. government, his constant concerns regarding the development and use of nuclear weapons, also an area of his expertise as a nuclear war planner. 

 

He published books and articles, was interviewed constantly, and spoke throughout the U.S. and many parts of the world. He rose in defense of other so-called whistleblowers like Julian Assange of WikiLeaks, Chelsea Manning who released secret information that exposed U.S. operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, and Edward Snowden who exposed the extent of government surveillance of U.S. citizens, and John Kiriakou, the CIA case officer and analyst, who exposed the CIA's torture program, along with others. He not only spoke, but he also demonstrated with others against the nuclear weaponization of war, against the wars on Iraq and Afghanistan, policies toward Iran, carried out by the U.S., in support of Chelsea Manning who was imprisoned, for first amendment rights, in support of the Occupy movement and many more. For his actions he has been arrested more than 80 times.

 

It is impossible to measure the impact that he has had on others, with the example he set with his life, hoping to give others the courage to question and stand up against the murderous functioning of this system.

 

His letter (published below) reflects the qualities he embodies and that we could all hope to embody to some degree.

 

Message from Daniel Ellsberg

 

Dear friends and supporters,

 

I have difficult news to impart. On February 17, without much warning, I was diagnosed with inoperable pancreatic cancer on the basis of a CT scan and an MRI. (As is usual with pancreatic cancer—which has no early symptoms—it was found while looking for something else, relatively minor.) I’m sorry to report to you that my doctors have given me three to six months to live. Of course, they emphasize that everyone's case is individual; it might be more, or less. 

 

I have chosen not to do chemotherapy (which offers no promise) and I have assurance of great hospice care when needed. Please know right now, I am not in any physical pain, and in fact, after my hip replacement surgery in late 2021, I feel better physically than I have in years! Moreover, my cardiologist has given me license to abandon my salt-free diet of the last six years. This has improved my quality of life dramatically: the pleasure of eating my former favorite foods! And my energy level is high. Since my diagnosis, I've done several interviews and webinars on Ukraine, nuclear weapons, and first amendment issues, and I have two more scheduled this week.

 

As I just told my son Robert: he's long known (as my editor) that I work better under a deadline. It turns out that I live better under a deadline!

 

I feel lucky and grateful that I've had a wonderful life far beyond the proverbial three-score years and ten. (I’ll be ninety-two on April 7th.) I feel the very same way about having a few months more to enjoy life with my wife and family, and in which to continue to pursue the urgent goal of working with others to avert nuclear war in Ukraine or Taiwan (or anywhere else). 

 

When I copied the Pentagon Papers in 1969, I had every reason to think I would be spending the rest of my life behind bars. It was a fate I would gladly have accepted if it meant hastening the end of the Vietnam War, unlikely as that seemed (and was.) Yet in the end, that action—in ways I could not have foreseen, due to Nixon’s illegal responses—did have an impact on shortening the war. In addition, thanks to Nixon's crimes, I was spared the imprisonment I expected, and I was able to spend the last fifty years with Patricia and my family, and with you, my friends.

 

What's more, I was able to devote those years to doing everything I could think of to alert the world to the perils of nuclear war and wrongful interventions: lobbying, lecturing, writing, and joining with others in acts of protest and non-violent resistance. 

 

I wish I could report greater success for our efforts. As I write, "modernization" of nuclear weapons is ongoing in all nine states that possess them (the U.S. most of all). Russia is making monstrous threats to initiate nuclear war to maintain its control over Crimea and the Donbas—like the dozens of equally illegitimate first-use threats that the U.S. government has made in the past to maintain its military presence in South Korea, Taiwan, South Vietnam, and (with the complicity of every member state then in NATO) West Berlin. The current risk of nuclear war, over Ukraine, is as great as the world has ever seen. 

 

China and India are alone in declaring no-first-use policies. Leadership in the U.S., Russia, other nuclear weapons states, NATO and other U.S. allies have yet to recognize that such threats of initiating nuclear war—let alone the plans, deployments and exercises meant to make them credible and more ready to be carried out—are and always have been immoral and insane: under any circumstances, for any reasons, by anyone or anywhere.

 

It is long past time—but not too late!—for the world's publics at last to challenge and resist the willed moral blindness of their past and current leaders. I will continue, as long as I'm able, to help these efforts. There's tons more to say about Ukraine and nuclear policy, of course, and you'll be hearing from me as long as I'm here.

 

As I look back on the last sixty years of my life, I think there is no greater cause to which I could have dedicated my efforts. For the last forty years we have known that nuclear war between the U.S. and Russia would mean nuclear winter: more than a-hundred-million tons of smoke and soot from firestorms in cities set ablaze by either side, striking either first or second, would be lofted into the stratosphere where it would not rain out and would envelope the globe within days. That pall would block up to 70 percent of sunlight for years, destroying all harvests worldwide and causing death by starvation for most of the humans and other vertebrates on earth. 

 

So far as I can find out, this scientific near-consensus has had virtually no effect on the Pentagon's nuclear war plans or U.S./NATO (or Russian) nuclear threats. (In a like case of disastrous willful denial by many officials, corporations and other Americans, scientists have known for over three decades that the catastrophic climate change now underway—mainly but not only from burning fossil fuels—is fully comparable to U.S.-Russian nuclear war as another existential risk.) 

 

I'm happy to know that millions of people—including all those friends and comrades to whom I address this message!—have the wisdom, the dedication and the moral courage to carry on with these causes, and to work unceasingly for the survival of our planet and its creatures.

 

I'm enormously grateful to have had the privilege of knowing and working with such people, past and present. That's among the most treasured aspects of my very privileged and very lucky life. I want to thank you all for the love and support you have given me in so many ways. Your dedication, courage, and determination to act have inspired and sustained my own efforts. 

 

My wish for you is that at the end of your days you will feel as much joy and gratitude as I do now. 

 

Love, Dan

 

PS: I will enjoy reading any message you send me to this email, though I may or may not be able to respond to every message or call. I prefer email to calls, and in general I am avoiding personal visits, from concern about covid. Please know that I hold you in my heart.


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Dear friends and supporters of Kevin Cooper, 

We are horrified by the terrible report put out by the Morrison Foerster (MoFo) law firm who were assigned to conduct an independent investigation of Kevin Cooper’s case. As Kevin’s chief attorney, Norman Hile, says: "In short, Mofo did not do an innocence investigation. Instead, they simply looked at the evidence the prosecution used and then hired some of their own experts to affirm what the prosecution said.”

Attached is a brief press statement issued by Kevin’s defense law firm. If you would like to receive the link to the MoFo report (over 200 pages) let me know and I will email it to you.

More analysis and information will follow soon.

An immediate act of solidarity we can all do right now is to write to Kevin and assure him of our continuing support in his fight for justice. Here’s his address:

Mr. Kevin Cooper

C-65304. 4-EB-82

San Quentin State Prison

San Quentin, CA 94974

 

Orrick

January 14, 2023

 

Kevin Cooper has suffered imprisonment as a death row inmate for more than 38 years for a gruesome crime he did not commit. We are therefore extremely disappointed by the special counsel’s report to the Board of Parole Hearings and disagree strongly with its findings.  Most fundamentally, we are shocked that the governor seemingly failed to conduct a thorough review of the report that contains many misstatements and omissions and also ignores the purpose of a legitimate innocence investigation, which is to independently determine whether Mr. Cooper’s conviction was a product of prosecutorial misconduct. The report failed to address that critical issue. The evidence when viewed in this light reveals that Kevin Cooper is innocent of the Ryen/Hughes murders, and that he was framed by the San Bernardino Sheriff’s Department. 

 

The special counsel’s investigation ordered by Governor Newsom in May 2021 was not properly conducted and is demonstrably incomplete. It failed to carry out the type of thorough investigation required to explore the extensive evidence that Mr. Cooper was wrongfully convicted. Among other things, the investigation failed to even subpoena and then examine the files of the prosecutors and interview the individuals involved in the prosecution. For unknown reasons and resulting in the tragic and clearly erroneous conclusion that he reached, the special counsel failed to follow the basic steps taken by all innocence investigations that have led to so many exonerations of the wrongfully convicted. 

 

In effect the special counsel’s report says: the Board of Parole Hearings can and will ignore Brady violations, destruction of exculpatory evidence, planted evidence, racial prejudice, prosecutorial malfeasance, and ineffective assistance of trial counsel; since I conclude Cooper is guilty based on what the prosecution says, none of these Constitutional violations matter or will be considered and we have no obligation to investigate these claims.

 

Given that (1) we have already uncovered seven prosecutorial violations of Brady v. Maryland during Mr. Cooper’s prosecution, (2) one of the likely killers has confessed to three different parties that he, rather than Mr. Cooper, was involved in the Ryen/Hughes murders, and (3) there is significant evidence of racial bias in Mr. Cooper’s prosecution, we cannot understand how Mr. Cooper was not declared wrongfully convicted.  The special counsel specifically declined to address ineffective assistance of counsel at the trial or the effect of race discrimination.  We call on the governor to follow through on his word and obtain a true innocence investigation.


Anything But Justice for Black People

Statement from Kevin Cooper concerning recent the decision on his case by Morrison Forrester Law Firm

In 2020 and 2022 Governor Newsom signed in to law the “Racial Justice Act.” This is because the California legislature, and the Governor both acknowledged that the criminal justice system in California is anything but justice for Black people.

On May 28th, 2021, Governor signed an executive order to allow the law firm of Morrison Forrester (MoFo) to do an independent investigation in my case which included reading the trial and appellant transcripts, my innocence claims, and information brought to light by the 9th circuit court of appeals, as well as anything else not in the record, but relevant to this case.

So, Mr. Mark McDonald, Esq, who headed this investigation by Morrison Forrester and his associates at the law firm, went and did what was not part of Governor Newsom’s order, and they did this during the length of time that they were working on this case, and executive order. They worked with law enforcement, current and former members of the L.A. Sheriff’s department, and other law enforcement-type people and organizations.

Law enforcement is the first part of this state’s criminal justice system. A system that both the California legislature, and the Governor acknowledge to be racist, and cannot be trusted to tell the truth, will present, and use false evidence to obtain a conviction, will withhold material exculpatory evidence, and will do everything else that is written in those two racial justice act bills that were signed into law.

So, with the active help of those pro-police, pro-prosecutor, pro-death penalty people working on this case to uphold my bogus conviction we cannot be surprised about the recent decision handed down by them in this case.

While these results are not true but based on the decisions made in 1983 and 1984 by the San Bernardino County district attorney’s office, these 2023 results were not reached by following the executive orders of Governor Newsom.

They ignored his orders and went out to make sure that I am either executed or will never get out of prison.

Governor Newsom cannot let this stand because he did not order a pro-cop or pro-prosecutor investigation, he ordered an independent investigation.

We all know that in truth, law enforcement protects each other, they stand by each other, no matter what city, county, or state that they come from. This is especially true when a Black man like me states that I was framed for murder by law enforcement who just happened to be in the neighboring county.

No one should be surprised about the law enforcement part in this, but we must be outraged by the law firm Morrison Forrester for being a part of this and then try to sell it as legitimate. We ain’t stupid and everyone who knows the truth about my case can see right through this bullshit.

I will continue to fight not only for my life, and to get out of here, but to end the death penalty as well. My entire legal team, family and friends and supporters will continue as well. We have to get to the Governor and let him know that he cannot accept these bogus rehashed results.

MoFo and their pro-prosecution and pro-police friends did not even deal with, or even acknowledge the constitutional violations in my case. They did not mention the seven Brady violations which meant the seven pieces of material exculpatory evidence were withheld from my trial attorney and the jury, and the 1991 California Supreme court that heard and upheld this bogus conviction. Why, one must ask, did they ignore these constitutional violations and everything that we proved in the past that went to my innocence?

Could it be that they just didn’t give a damn about the truth but just wanted to uphold this conviction by any means necessary?

No matter their reasons, they did not do what Governor Gavin Newsom ordered them to do in his May 28, 2021, executive order and we cannot let them get away with this.

I ask each and every person who reads this to contact the Governor’s office and voice your outrage over what MoFo did, and demand that he not accept their decision because they did not do what he ordered them to do which was to conduct an independent investigation!

In Struggle and Solidarity

From Death Row at San Quentin Prison,

Kevin Cooper

 

Call California Governor Newsom:

1-(916) 445-2841

Press 1 for English or 2 for Spanish, 

press 6 to speak with a representative and

wait for someone to answer 

(Monday-Friday, 9:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M. PST—12:00 P.M. to 8:00 P.M. EST)

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Ruchell is imprisoned in California, but it is important for the CA governor and Attorney General to receive your petitions, calls, and emails from WHEREVER you live! 

 

SIGN THE PETITION: bit.ly/freeruchell

 

SEND DIGITAL LETTER TO CA GOV. NEWSOM: bit.ly/write4ruchell

 

Call CA Governor Newsom:

CALL (916) 445-2841

Press 1 for English or 2 for Spanish, 

press 6 to speak with a representative and

wait for someone to answer (Mon. - Fri., 9 AM - 5 PM PST / 12PM - 8PM EST)

 

Call Governor Newsom's office and use this script: 

 

"Hello, my name is _______ and I'm calling to encourage Governor Gavin Newsom to commute the sentence of prisoner Ruchell Magee #A92051 #T 115, who has served 59 long years in prison. Ruchell is 83 years old, so as an elderly prisoner he faces health risks every day from still being incarcerated for so long. In the interests of justice, I am joining the global call for Ruchell's release due to the length of his confinement and I urge Governor Newsom to take immediate action to commute Ruchell Magee's sentence."

 

Write a one-page letter to Gov Gavin Newsom:

Also, you can write a one-page letter to Governor Gavin Newsom about your support for Ruchell and why he deserves a commutation of his sentence due to his length of confinement (over 59 years), his age (83), and the health risks of an elderly person staying in California’s prisons. 

 

YOUR DIGITAL LETTER can be sent at bit.ly/write4ruchell

 

YOUR US MAIL LETTER can be sent to:

Governor Gavin Newsom

1303 10th Street, Suite 1173

Sacramento, CA 95814

 

Email Governor Newsom

GOV.CA.GOV/CONTACT

 

Navigation: 

Under "What is your request or comment about?", select "Clemency - Commutation of Sentence" and then select "Leave a comment". The next page will allow you to enter a message, where you can demand:

 

Commute the sentence of prisoner Ruchell Magee #A92051 #T 115, who has served 59 long years in prison. 

He was over-charged with kidnapping and robbery for a dispute over a $10 bag of marijuana, a substance that is legal now and should’ve never resulted in a seven-years-to-life sentence.  Ruchell is 83 years old, so as an elderly prisoner he faces health risks every day from still being incarcerated for so long.

 

Write to District Attorney Gascon

District Attorney George Gascon

211 West Temple Street, Suite 1200

Los Angeles, CA 90012

 

Write a one-page letter to D.A. George Gascon requesting that he review Ruchell’s sentence due to the facts that he was over-charged with kidnapping and robbery for a dispute over a $10 bag of marijuana, a substance that is legal now and should’ve never resulted in a seven-years-to-life sentence. Ruchell’s case should be a top priority because of his age (83) and the length of time he has been in prison (59 years).

 

·      Visit www.freeruchellmagee.org to learn more! Follow us @freeruchellmagee on Instagram!

·      Visit www.facebook.com/freeruchellmagee or search "Coalition to Free Ruchell Magee" to find us on Facebook!

·      Endorse our coalition at:

·      www.freeruchellmagee.org/endorse!

·      Watch and share this powerful webinar on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4u5XJzhv9Hc

 

WRITE TO RUCHELL MAGEE

Ruchell Magee

CMF - A92051 - T-123

P.O. Box 2000

Vacaville, CA 95696

 

Write Ruchell uplifting messages! Be sure to ask questions about his well-being, his interests, and his passions. Be aware that any of his mail can be read by correctional officers, so don’t use any violent, explicit, or demoralizing language. Don’t use politically sensitive language that could hurt his chances of release. Do not send any hard or sharp materials.

 

~Verbena

of Detroit Shakur Squad

 

The Detroit Shakur Squad holds zoom meetings every other Thursday. We educate each other and organize to help free our Elder Political Prisoners. Next meeting is Thurs, Jan 12, 2022.  Register to attend the meetings at tinyurl.com/Freedom-Meeting

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The writers' organization PEN America is circulating this petition on behalf of Jason Renard Walker, a Texas prisoner whose life is being threatened because of his exposés of the Texas prison system. 


See his book, Reports from within the Belly of the Beast; available on Amazon at:

https://www.amazon.com/Reports-Within-Belly-Beast-Department-ebook/dp/B084656JDZ/ref=cm_cr_arp_d_product_top?ie=UTF8

Petition: https://actionnetwork.org/petitions/protect-whistleblowers-in-carceral-settings

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In the past year, we've learned that dozens of Federal Correction Institution Dublin employees sexually abused countless incarcerated people at the facility. Survivors' stories make clear that FCI Dublin staff specifically targeted immigrant women for abuse, and that ICE has knowingly detained and deported survivors and witnesses of sexual abuse by federal prison employees. Advocates have spoken with seven women who were sexually assaulted by prison staff and have already been deported, and at least 15 who are currently facing deportation (including at least six who are indefinitely detained by ICE).

 

We are writing to ask you to sign on to an open letter to the ICE leadership, demanding that they cease detaining and deporting noncitizen survivors and witnesses of prison staff sexual abuse, and release those currently in immigration detention. 

 

Sign on here:

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSfEl28RpaOIF0oXgSWlt4bZXbACH_2LGt96EPt27z-cLTK-aA/viewform?fbzx=-5740546259545124690

 

You can read the full text of the open letter, and you can sign your organization on to the letter here:

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1UA7iLtH0jdnUZeZMnb5pNayzHl2kPwUZouGzf1PFGuo/edit

 

Thanks for your consideration.

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The Diabolic Intent to Murder: Medical Professionals’ & Prisoncrats’ constant delay game of untreated Cancer of Kevin Rashid Johnson                                                                                 

By Peter "Comrade Pitt" Mukuria


Kevin Rashid Johnson  is the Minister of Defense for the Revolutionary Intercommunal Black Panther Party (RIBPP). He is someone that I've been honored to have known for over a decade.  I've learned quite a lot from him over the years. In fact, he played a critical role in my political consciousness & growth.  

Prior to knowing Rashid personally or through his political work, my political awareness was rather undeveloped.  To know Rashid, is to learn from him.  One of the qualities about Rashid, which separates him from most, is that he practices what he preaches.   

By reviewing his work, it’s conspicuous to note, that, he is someone who advocates for the voiceless, poor, & oppressed, those dubbed, The wretched of the earth.  His advocacy for his incarcerated peers isn't limited to writing about the horrible conditions of confinement.  He also involves himself in direct action. 

In countless cases, he has placed himself in direct conflict against the pigs, by advocating for his peers.  As a result of his political consciousness and his courageous spirit intertwined, he has been Interstate transferred to 8 different state prisons. In each of these prisons, he has encountered much of the same inhumane conditions of confinement & abuse of prisoners. Each time, he adamantly spoke out against it. Exposing the prisons & if needed, he implemented physical actions in defense of other prisoners. 

 As a result of his unbroken spirit and activism, he has actively, politically awakened his peers. He transformed their lumpen mentality into a revolutionary mentality. He, thus, became a nightmare to the prisons. 

In  October 2021 , Rashid, had blood tests conducted, however, he wasn’t made aware of the results in a timely manner. No news is usually an indicator of good health.  

A year later, he learned the results of the October 2021 bloodwork. The findings revealed that he had prostate cancer.  Given the amount of time that had passed, the cancer had spread and metastasized. I'm no medical professional, but it is a well-known fact that prostate cancer is the 2nd leading cause of death in men & can only be cured if detected & treated early. It's quite conspicious that it was a deliberate act for prison officials to be aware that he had prostate cancer & intentionally delayed notifying him for a year. 

Furthermore, they then played games with his scheduled appointments. The latest one was to have a PET Scan. They intentionally transported him there hours late to ensure that he wouldn’t receive his treatment & a new appointment would have to be scheduled. This same transportation delay tactic actually transpired on multiple occasions.  

Their sinister, diabolical intent is obviously to prolong his treatment to ensure the spread of the cancer & lead to a fatal outcome.  In the case of political & politicized prisoners, medical neglect is a common retaliatory response from the prison officials & this current medical mistreatment is an example. 

 All in all, it is of utmost importance that public protests continue. We must demand that Rashid receives proper treatment as his life is truly in danger.  

For decades, Rashid has stood up against violent guards in defense of other incarcerated people. He has risked his own comfort, advocating for his peers countless times.  Even those he didn’t know. He has exposed the dire & inhumane conditions the incarcerated are subjected to.  The abuse & the constant mistreatment. 

Prisons tend to act if pressured by the public or if actions are court ordered. Given the urgency of this matter- literally life or death-Public involvement would be far more effective as the courts would surely take too much time, which is a luxury we can’t afford as too much time has already passed.  As much as Rashid has fought for others, we must now reciprocate & fight for our brother & comrade. For updates on his health & conditions visit www.Rashidmod.com 

Dare To Struggle 
Dare To Win 
All Power To The People! 

 Comrade Pitt 

Peter Kamau Mukuria #5194931 
JCI 
PO Box 534 
Jessup, MD 20794 

Minister of Labor ~RIBPP 

Instagram@Pittpanther_art

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.



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Sign the petition:

https://dontextraditeassange.com/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.

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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
Director
Whistleblower & Source Protection Program (WHISPeR)
ExposeFacts

Twitter: @JesselynRadack

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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.

Poems: 

http://cordite.org.au/translations/el-salvador-tragic/

About: 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roque_Dalton

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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:

https://www.carlsonfilms.com

 

Posted by: Death Penalty Focus Blog, January 10, 2022

https://deathpenalty.org/teaser-for-a-kevin-cooper-documentary-is-now-streaming/?eType=EmailBlastContent&eId=1c7299ab-018c-4780-9e9d-54cab2541fa0

 

“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.




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February 6, 2023 

Statement from Leonard Peltier

Leonard Peltier released this statement from his prison cell to mark the 48th anniversary of his unjust incarceration.[1]


Greetings my friends, supporters, loved ones. I know I’ve probably said this, or things like this, many times. Every time I say it, it is as heartfelt as the first time. From the bottom of my soul, I thank you for your support. Living in here, year after year, day after day, week after week, plays on your concepts of time and your process of thought beyond what you can imagine.

Every day, I have to say a prayer in the morning, about keeping my spirit up and the spirits of our people.

The struggles of the American Indian Movement, which are the struggles of all of us, have never ended for me. They go on, week after week, month after month, year after year.

When I speak, sometimes I think I may sound a bit too sensitive, but my love for my people and the love supporters have shown me over the years is what keeps me alive. I don’t read your letters with my intellect. I read them with my heart.

My imprisonment is just another example of the treatment and policies our people have faced since the arrival of the first Europeans. I’m just an ordinary man and I come from a live-and-let-live society, like all our people. And yet we have had to live in a state of survival ever since Columbus landed.

There is nothing about my case, nothing about the Constitution, which is a treaty between the American people and the government, that warrants my continual imprisonment.

They have historically imprisoned or killed our people, taken our land and resources. Any time the law was in our favor they ignored the law or changed the law to benefit their agenda.

After they have gotten what they wanted, a generation later, some politician would apologize. They have never negotiated sincerely with us unless we had something they wanted and could not take, or we were an embarrassment before the world, or we were some sort of opposition. The opposition has always been the dominant reason for them making treaties with us. I could go on and on about the mistreatment of our people and on and on about my case, but the United Nations said it.

That the United States has kept me locked up because I am American Indian. The only thing that really makes me different from other American Indians who have been mistreated, had land taken, or been imprisoned by our government, is that it is all a matter of court record in my case. The violation of my Constitutional rights has been proven in court. The fabrication of every piece of evidence used to convict me has been proven in court.

The United Nations itself, comprised of 193 nations, has called for my release, noting I am a political prisoner. In my case as a political prisoner there does not have to be a prisoner exchange. The exchange they need to make is from their policy of injustice to a policy of justice.

It does not matter what your color and ethnicity are. Black, red, white, yellow, brown—if they can do it to me, they can do it to you. The Constitution of the United States is hanging by a thread. Again.

I want to say, from my heart to your heart, most sincerely—do your best to educate your children. Teach them to defend themselves physically, mentally, and spiritually. Make them aware of our history. Teach them to plant a food forest or any plant that will provide for them in the future.

Again, from my heart to yours, plant a tree for me.

In the Spirit of Crazy Horse.

Doksha,

Leonard Peltier

—Liberation, February 6, 2023

https://www.liberationnews.org/statement-from-leonard-peltier/

 

Write to:

Leonard Peltier 89637-132

USP Coleman 1  

P.O. Box 1033

Coleman, FL 33521

Note: Letters, address and return address must be in writing—no stickers—and on plain white paper.



[1] To learn what his case is about click here:

https://www.liberationnews.org/today-marks-48-years-of-leonard-peltiers-unjust-imprisonment-free-leonard/


A Plea for the Compassionate Release of 

Leonard Peltier

Video at:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jWdJdODKO6M&feature=youtu.be

Screen shot from video.


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

 

https://www.freeleonardpeltier.com/petition

 

Email: contact@whoisleonardpeltier.info

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



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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!


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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


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Articles

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1) Police Pleaded for Hours With a Man in Crisis. Then They Shot Him.

New Jersey’s attorney general said that the man, Najee Seabrooks, lunged toward Paterson officers with a knife. They fatally shot him, renewing criticism of using armed officers to deal with people in distress.

By Maria Cramer and Tracey Tully, Published March 17, 2023, Updated March 18, 2023

https://www.nytimes.com/2023/03/17/nyregion/najee-seabrooks-patterson-police-nj.html

A man in a red-and-white cap and dark T-shirt grins.
Najee Seabrooks had been feeling the stress of his job, relatives said.

A crowd of demonstrators marches with banners.
Protesters in Paterson, N.J., have demanded accountability from the police. Credit...Bryan Anselm for The New York Times

For hours, the Paterson police pleaded with Najee Seabrooks to come out of a locked bathroom where he was threatening to kill himself.

 

“Everybody’s walking out of here, including you,” one of the officers told him, according to video from police body cameras released by the New Jersey attorney general’s office this week.

 

“I’m dying in this bathroom,” said Mr. Seabrooks, a 31-year-old mentor at an anti-violence organization in Paterson, a city of 158,000 people in northern New Jersey.

 

“That’s not happening, Najee,” the officer replied. “Not on my watch. Come on. You’re going to live a long time. This ain’t how it ends for you.”

 

But at 12:51 p.m. on March 3, about five hours after someone called 911 to report a man in distress, Mr. Seabrooks was declared dead. He had been shot by two officers, who fired at him after Mr. Seabrooks came out of the bathroom and “lunged toward the officers with a knife in his hand,” according to a statement by the attorney general’s office, which is investigating the shooting.

 

The attorney general’s office identified the two officers who fired their weapons as Anzore Tsay and Jose Hernandez, both of whom are members of the department’s emergency response team.

 

The case has roiled the city, where Mr. Seabrooks’s colleagues and family have demanded to know why mental health specialists were not allowed into the apartment so they could help. Protesters have marched to decry the shooting and to call for the U.S. Justice Department to investigate. One week after Mr. Seabrooks was shot, several dozen people gathered at a restaurant owned by one of the officers involved in the shooting and banged and kicked at the security gate.

 

The footage released by the attorney general, taken from at least four hours of video from cameras worn by the officers on scene, shows the police repeatedly telling Mr. Seabrooks, who can be seen at points holding a bloody knife, to come out and talk to his mother. They asked him how they could help, urged him to stop cutting himself and then pleaded with him to come out so they could take him to a hospital. Then, at 12:35 p.m., Mr. Seabrooks leaped out of the bathroom.

 

“It was a dangerous situation in there,” said André Sayegh, the mayor of Paterson, whose administration had repeatedly urged the state attorney general’s office to release footage from police body cameras.

 

The officers “were there to render aid and as you’ll see in the videos, they were trying as much as possible to avoid a tragic outcome,” he said.

 

The police did not respond to messages for comment. The attorney general’s office said it would not comment beyond its statement, citing the continuing investigation.

 

Members of the Paterson Healing Collective, the antiviolence organization where Mr. Seabrooks had worked for two years as an interventionist, said the videos show precisely why the police should not be the primary responders when a person is in the throes of a mental health crisis.

 

The officers had their weapons drawn as they spoke with Mr. Seabrooks, who told officers he had three knives and “a gun, fully loaded.”

 

Members of the Paterson Healing Collective said that they were barred by the police from intervening as they waited for hours in the lobby of the multistory apartment building where Mr. Seabrooks was shot.

 

Mr. Seabrooks had repeatedly texted members of the collective that morning asking them where they were, said Liza Chowdhury, project director of the Paterson Healing Collective.

 

“‘I need to hear your voices. I need to see your faces,’” she said he texted. Even after Mr. Seabrooks’s colleagues showed the messages to officers at the scene, “the police would not allow us in,” Ms. Chowdhury said. When she asked the city’s public safety director, Jerry Speziale, to give her staff access to the apartment, she said he responded that the department had sent a unit trained to de-escalate these types of situations.

 

Mr. Speziale did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment.

 

Ms. Chowdhury said that her staff is trained to talk for hours to people going through “the worst situations in their lives.”

 

“Any mental health professional knows patience is key,” she said. “Patience, empathy, understanding.”

 

Ms. Chowdhury, who was a probation officer for 10 years, said showing a gun to someone going through a mental health crisis only increases paranoia and fear.

 

Yannick Wood, director of criminal justice reform at the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice, said “there’s something wrong with the system when someone calls for a mental health issue and they end up getting approached by men with guns.”

 

When officers arrived, Mr. Seabrooks was already in the bathroom. He had arrived at his brother’s apartment at about 2 a.m., grabbed “some knives” and locked himself in, his relatives told the police.

 

The family said that “he may have been experiencing a bad reaction to something he had smoked,” according to the attorney general, “and that his actions were completely out of character.”

 

Uniformed officers tried to cajole him out, then had his mother speak to him from outside the door.

 

“Please, Najee,” she said, crying. “I love you, Najee. Open the door. Najee, come on, please open the door for me.”

 

He would not come out.

 

His mother told the police that Mr. Seabrooks did not have a history of mental illness, but that the job, which entails helping to steer young people from violence, was becoming stressful, according to the video.

 

“I think that’s getting to him,” she said. “He’s seen a lot of his friends get killed.”

 

When an officer told her that Mr. Seabrooks told the police he had a gun, she seemed confused.

 

“Where did he get a gun from?” she asked.

 

A specialized unit soon arrived, bearing shields, high-powered firearms and wearing helmets.

 

At 11:46 a.m., Mr. Seabrooks, who was shirtless, peeked out of the door and saw the officers, who were pointing their guns in his direction. He let out a yell.

 

“That’s how you coming?” he asked, then cursed.

 

“Drop the knife, man,” an officer demanded.

 

“Less than lethal,” a supervisor ordered. “Less than lethal.”

 

They told him to stop cutting himself and to come out. The camera angles make it hard to see Mr. Seabrooks in the bathroom, but he can be heard screaming.

 

The officers continued to plead with him to drop the knives.

 

“Just put them down,” one of the officers said. They offered to let him talk to his mother again.

 

“I’m sure she don’t want to see you like this,” one officer said, seconds before Mr. Seabrook appeared to leap out of the door.

 

“Drop it!” the officer yelled, just before the shots were fired.

 

Ms. Chowdhury said Mr. Seabrooks’s family is planning to hold his funeral on Saturday. He had a daughter, who is about 4, she said.

 

Ms. Chowdury said that while her staff members were at the scene, she was texting Mr. Seabrooks and talking to the police on the phone. Then, members of her staff called to say they had heard shots.

 

“I just said no. I didn’t believe it,” she said. “I never thought that the police were going to kill him.”


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2) LA Union Troublemakers Meet 

Plan More Trouble for the Bosses

By Mark Friedman - 03/17/2023

https://www.randomlengthsnews.com/archives/2023/03/17/la-union-troublemakers-meet-plan-more-trouble-for-the-bosses/44091

In the largest LA labor meeting to date, more than 450 labor and union activists participated in the March 11 LA Labor Notes Troublemakers School.


Dozens of unions and union locals participated in 20 workshops and major plenary sessions.  The largest delegation came from the International Longshore and Warehouse Union with 55 delegates. However, the Teamsters (who are facing a battle with UPS as their labor contract expires on July 31), the International Association of Theatrical and Stage Employees, Starbucks Workers United, Amazon Labor Union (organizers from the Inland Empire), United Autoworkers (UAW) strikers from the UC System, UNITE-HERE, United Teachers of LA and the Communication Workers of America also showed with significant representation.

 

Retired ILWU Organizing Director Peter Olney moderated the workshop entitled, “Building Solidarity and Power in the Logistics Chain.

 

Panelists included Jared Hamil of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters who discussed the upcoming UPS contract fight and efforts to eliminate/reduce the number of minimum wage part-time workers who only received benefits after nine months, ending forced overtime and 60-hour weeks during covid while “UPS made billions and all we got was Covid.” UPS temporary workers deliver packages in their own cars and many workers are spied upon, tracked and pushed to speed up truck loading or deliveries. He reiterated Teamster contract language that allows them to honor picket lines, as they did during the UC strike.

 

Carey Dall, past director of internal organizing for the Brotherhood of Maintenance and Way Employees Division  of the IBT gave a thorough view of the many challenges facing the railway sector.

 

John Fageaux, President, ILWU Local 63 Office Clerical Unit described planning and information’s role in the supply chain.

 

ILWU Local 63 member, Richard Dines explained the enormous increase of shipping containers (TEU’s) handled in the Ports of LA and Long Beach, and that now companies are shipping to east coast ports making the Ports of New York and New Jersey the number one and two ports in the nation. This is to by-pass “Troublesome folks in the ILWU…we are a pain in their asses.” He discussed the efforts to automate lorries on the dock that eliminates jobs, that this would be a major contract issue coming up.

 

Mike Vera of the Inland Boatmen’s Union—the marine division of the ILWU added that “While nonunion workers are one of the biggest challenges, we also face a concern with competition amongst maritime unions.   Without the ability and the willingness to put a hurt on the companies both financially and reputationally our leverage is minimal. Unless you have the power of disruption, and you use it, we can’t realistically develop any strategic plan that carries weight. Look at the power the academic workers at UAW flexed over the UC system.48,000 workers walked off the job and were heard.

 

“How do we build power in the supply chain? We can only look to strengthen our bonds, our relationship and our fight together with the dockworkers, marine clerks and clerical workers of the ILWU.  We should support the efforts of the truckers at the front gate of the shipping terminals and those that haul goods to and from distribution centers and warehouses.

 

We need to fight alongside workers like Nannette Placentia, organizer of the Amazon Labor Union in the Inland Empire and we need to raise hell alongside our brothers and sisters of the railways when the federal government interferes with their right to collectively bargain.

 

As we look towards the future it would benefit all of us to collaborate on the challenges that automation brings to each of our sectors. 

 

We should work hard to identify, share and support each other in any opportunities that may arise as energy transitions away from fossil fuels to cleaner alternative energy.”

 

Panelist Nannette Plascencia, lead organizer for the United For Change union working with the  Amazon Labor Union at ONT8 in the Inland Empire,  told the large workshop “We’ve been signing authorization cards to lead to an election.   Workers are signing cards because “We have no say in what is going on, we deal with Time Off Task to go to the restroom or the challenges to make quotas…We go in groups to the General Manager for help but there is no response…if we unionize, they have to listen to us.”

 

“Management has union busters in all departments “talking to us while we are working…a captive audience telling us that “If you sign a card, you will lose your benefits wages and you need to protect your privacy from the union.”  “Despite harassment and firings of union organizers, as they did at JFK8, I am not going to stop.”

 

The “Youth Rising” workshop was inspiring and reflected the growing unionization drives at non-traditional worksites by young people, often excluded from participating in their union or ignored altogether by the major AFL-CIO affiliates.

 

Veronica Gonzalez is a Starbucks Workers United organizer, a seasoned fighter. A 2-year veteran, reported that over 200 stores have organized, but they have not been able to force management into negotiations. “We have three internal committees to build class consciousness, to explain to baristas how they are exploited and they have the power to stand up for themselves.”

 

“We need to get more people involved with collective action, stage strikes and out-front pickets…The SWU and ALU are not alone — there is power in numbers. We are fighting for a living wage, not digital tipping that Starbucks has given to non-union stores a concession to buy them off.”

 

Ivan Baez has been an organizer for Amazon Labor Union in ONT8 (Inland Empire) until he was foired for union activity. 

 

“Although I got fired from Amazon for union activity, I shall not stop and am part of the outside the warehouse support for the inside organizing in the Inland Empire. We are fighting for my job thru a NLRB unfair Labor Practices lawsuit filed by the ALU.

 

“There are scores of warehouses we need to organize and we need to utilize strikes as a powerful weapon. We have organized walkouts due to horrible warehouse working conditions. Laws are against us but maybe it is time to break some laws and fight for the entire working class.”

 

The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) has historically been a model of a white male job trust that had consciously excluded women and people of color. But trade union demographics have changed significantly, especially in Los Angeles, under the impact of civil and women’s rights movements and implementation of affirmative action .

 

This is exemplified by Crystal Herrera, organizer of Young Workers. As a young, Mexican and Black woman, member of the LGBTQ community, she didn’t want to wait for somebody else to decide it was her turn, so after graduating from IBEW 11’s apprenticeship she fought for and won a seat on its E Bd. When, at a young worker conference, older workers in attendance asked how to activate young workers, Crystal suggested they send young workers instead.

 

Another component of the conference was the discussions around a delegation of LA union leaders and activists going to Cuba at the invitation of the Cuban Trade Union Federation. Half a dozen active unionists in the LA Hands Off Cuba Committee distributed a sample resolution against the US blockade of Cuba and to remove Cuba from Washington’s list of “terrorist” nations.  More than a dozen unionists signed up to help in this effort.

 

The following unions signed off on the resolutions, including:

 

Inland Boatmen’s Union of Pacific (IBU), ILWU 2021 International Convention, Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA), California Federation of Labor (End the Blockade), Coalition of Labor Union Women, Sacramento Central Labor Council, Washington State Labor Council, and others.


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3) Earth to Hit Critical Warming Threshold by Early 2030s, Climate Panel Says

A new U.N. report says it is still possible to hold global warming to relatively safe levels, but doing so will require global cooperation, billions of dollars and big changes.

By Brad Plumer, March 20, 2023

https://www.nytimes.com/2023/03/20/climate/global-warming-ipcc-earth.html
Hoesung Lee, in a dark business suit, a red tie and glasses, stands before microphones at a white lectern on a stage with a blue background.
Hoesung Lee, chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, speaking at the global climate talks on Nov. 6 in Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt. Credit...Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Earth is likely to cross a critical threshold for global warming within the next decade, and nations will need to make an immediate and drastic shift away from fossil fuels to prevent the planet from overheating dangerously beyond that level, according to a major new report released on Monday.

 

The report, by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a body of experts convened by the United Nations, offers the most comprehensive understanding to date of ways in which the planet is changing. It says that global average temperatures are estimated to rise 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above preindustrial levels sometime around “the first half of the 2030s,” as humans continue to burn coal, oil and natural gas.

 

That number holds a special significance in global climate politics: Under the 2015 Paris climate agreement, virtually every nation agreed to “pursue efforts” to hold global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Beyond that point, scientists say, the impacts of catastrophic heat waves, flooding, drought, crop failures and species extinction become significantly harder for humanity to handle.

 

But Earth has already warmed an average of 1.1 degrees Celsius since the industrial age, and, with global fossil-fuel emissions setting records last year, that goal is quickly slipping out of reach.

 

There is still one last chance to shift course, the new report says. But it would require industrialized nations to join together immediately to slash greenhouse gases roughly in half by 2030 and then stop adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere altogether by the early 2050s. If those two steps were taken, the world would have about a 50 percent chance of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

 

Delays of even a few years would most likely make that goal unattainable, guaranteeing a hotter, more perilous future.

 

The report comes as the world’s two biggest polluters, China and the United States, continue to approve new fossil fuel projects. Last year, China issued permits for 168 coal-fired power plants of various sizes, according to the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air in Finland. Last week, the Biden administration approved an enormous oil drilling project known as Willow that will take place on pristine federal land in Alaska.

 

The report, which was approved by 195 governments, says that existing and currently planned fossil fuel infrastructure — coal-fired power plants, oil wells, factories, cars and trucks across the globe — will already produce enough carbon dioxide to warm the planet roughly 2 degrees Celsius this century. To keep warming below that level, many of those projects would need to be canceled, retired early or otherwise cleaned up.

 

“The 1.5 degree limit is achievable, but it will take a quantum leap in climate action,” António Guterres, the United Nations secretary general, said. In response to the report, Mr. Guterres called on countries to stop building new coal plants and to stop approving new oil and gas projects.  

 

Many scientists have pointed out that surpassing the 1.5 degree threshold will not mean humanity is doomed. But every fraction of a degree of additional warming is expected to increase the severity of dangers that people around the world face, such as water scarcity, malnutrition and deadly heat waves.

 

The difference between 1.5 degrees of warming and 2 degrees might mean that tens of millions more people worldwide experience life-threatening heat waves, water shortages and coastal flooding. A 1.5-degree world might still have coral reefs and summer Arctic sea ice, while a 2-degree world most likely would not.

 

“It’s not that if we go past 1.5 degrees everything is lost,” said Joeri Rogelj, director of research at the Grantham Institute for Climate Change and the Environment at Imperial College London. “But there’s clear evidence that 1.5 is better than 1.6, which is better than 1.7, and so on. The point is we need to do everything we can to keep warming as low as possible.”

 

Scientists say that warming will largely halt once humans stop adding heat-trapping gases to the atmosphere, a concept known as “net zero” emissions. How quickly nations reach net zero will determine how hot the planet ultimately becomes. Under the current policies of national governments, Earth is on pace to heat up by 2.1 to 2.9 degrees Celsius this century, analysts have estimated.

 

The new report is a synthesis of six previous landmark reports on climate change issued by the U.N. panel since 2018, each one compiled by hundreds of experts across the globe, approved by 195 countries and based on thousands of scientific studies. Taken together, the reports represent the most comprehensive look to date at the causes of global warming, the impacts that rising temperatures are having on people and ecosystems across the world and the strategies that countries can pursue to halt global warming.

 

The report makes clear that humanity’s actions today have the potential to fundamentally reshape the planet for thousands of years.

 

Many of the most dire climate scenarios once feared by scientists, such as those forecasting warming of 4 degrees Celsius or more, now look unlikely, as nations have invested more heavily in clean energy. At least 18 countries, including the United States, have managed to reduce their emissions for more than a decade, the report finds, while the costs of solar panels, wind turbines and lithium-ion batteries for electric vehicles have plummeted.

 

At the same time, even relatively modest increases in global temperature are now expected to be more disruptive than previously thought, the report concludes.

 

At current levels of warming, for instance, food production is starting to come under strain. The world is still producing more food each year, thanks to improvements in farming and crop technology, but climate change has slowed the rate of growth, the report says. It’s an ominous trend that puts food security at risk as the world’s population soars past eight billion people.

 

Today, the world is seeing record-shattering storms in California and catastrophic drought in places like East Africa. But by the 2030s, as temperatures rise, climate hazards are expected to increase all over the globe as different countries face more crippling heat waves, worsening coastal flooding and crop failures, the report says. At the same time, mosquitoes carrying diseases like malaria and dengue will spread into new areas, it adds.

 

Nations have made some strides in preparing for the dangers of global warming, the report says, for instance by building coastal barriers against rising oceans or establishing early-warning systems for future storms. But many of those adaptation efforts are “incremental” and lack sufficient funding, particularly in poorer countries, the report finds.

 

And if temperatures keep rising, many parts of the world may soon face limits in how much they can adapt. Beyond 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming, low-lying island nations and communities that depend on glaciers may face severe freshwater shortages.

 

To stave off a chaotic future, the report recommends that nations move away from the fossil fuels that have underpinned economies for more than 180 years.

 

Governments and companies would need to invest three to six times the roughly $600 billion they now spend annually on encouraging clean energy in order to hold global warming at 1.5 or 2 degrees, the report says. While there is currently enough global capital to do so, much of it is difficult for developing countries to acquire. The question of what wealthy, industrialized nations owe to poor, developing countries has been divisive at global climate negotiations.

 

A wide array of strategies are available for reducing fossil-fuel emissions, such as scaling up wind and solar power, shifting to electric vehicles and electric heat pumps in buildings, curbing methane emissions from oil and gas operations, and protecting forests.

 

But that may not be enough: Countries may also have to remove billions of tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere each year, relying on technology that barely exists today.

 

The report acknowledges the enormous challenges ahead. Winding down coal, oil and gas projects would mean job losses and economic dislocation. Some climate solutions come with difficult trade-offs: Protecting forests, for instance, means less land for agriculture; manufacturing electric vehicles requires mining rare earth metals for use in their batteries.

 

And because nations have waited so long to cut emissions, they will have to spend hundreds of billions of dollars to adapt to climate risks that are now unavoidable.

 

The new report is expected to inform the next round of United Nations climate talks this December in Dubai, where world leaders will gather to assess their progress in tackling global warming. At last year’s climate talks in Sharm el Sheik, language calling for an end to fossil fuels was struck from the final agreement after pressure from several oil-producing nations.

 

“Without a radical shift away from fossil fuels over the next few years, the world is certain to blow past the 1.5 C goal.” said Ani Dasgupta, president of the World Resources Institute, an environmental group. “The I.P.C.C. makes plain that continuing to build new unabated fossil fuel power plants would seal that fate,” he added, using the abbreviation for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

 

While the next decade is almost certain to be hotter, scientists said the main takeaway from the report should be that nations still have enormous influence over the climate for the rest of the century.

 

The report “is quite clear that whatever future we end up with is within our control,” said Piers Forster, a climate scientist at the University of Leeds who helped write one of the panel’s earlier reports. “It is up to humanity,” he added, “to determine what we end up with.”


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4) Americans’ Old Car Batteries Are Making Mexican Workers Sick

The removal of lead from car batteries, many from the United States, at recycling plants in northern Mexico has led to high levels of lead contamination, a new report found.

By Steve Fisher, Photographs by Alejandro Cegarra, March 20, 2023

Steve Fisher traveled to Monterrey, Mexico, and spoke with current and former workers at car battery recycling plants.

https://www.nytimes.com/2023/03/20/world/car-batteries-lead-mexico.html

A pile of car batteries sit on the floor and other batteries are on shelves.

More than 75 percent of all used U.S. batteries were exported to Mexico in 2021, according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency.


After returning home from his job at a car battery recycling plant in northern Mexico one evening in 2019, Azael Mateo González Ramírez said he felt dizzy, his bones ached and his throat was raspy. Then came stomach pain, he said, followed by bouts of diarrhea.

 

The plant in Monterrey where he worked handled used car batteries, many from the United States, extracting lead as part of the process. Mr. González, 39, stacked the batteries, he said, near large containers of lead dust.

 

Medical tests, Mr. González said, showed high levels of lead in his body; experts agree that no level of lead is safe and over time it can result in neurological and gastrointestinal damage.

 

His supervisor at the facility, he said, insisted he keep working.

 

The city of Monterrey, a three-hour drive from Texas, has become the largest source of used car batteries from the United States, with steady growth over the past decade in the shipment of used American batteries to Mexico, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

 

The increase in batteries from the United States comes as a report released Monday found significantly high levels of lead at many facilities, leaving workers vulnerable to a toxic metal that poses severe risks to human health.

 

Soil samples taken outside six battery recycling plants in Monterrey in 2021 revealed lead levels far above the legal limit in Mexico, according to the report by Occupational Knowledge International, a San Francisco-based public health nonprofit, and Casa Cem, a Mexican environmental group.

 

While Mexico’s regulations stipulate that facilities must remove lead from contaminated soil and can be shut down for violating environmental standards, Mexican government records show that in recent years few plants have been closed.

 

Mexico’s lax environmental laws and even more lax enforcement encourages American companies to offload used car batteries to the country, where labor is cheaper and unions are weaker, according to experts in labor rights and occupational health.

 

“Workers in these plants are being poisoned day in and day out, and often without even their own knowledge of that,’’ said Perry Gottesfeld, executive director of Occupational Knowledge International. “They don’t get the training, they don’t get the equipment and they don’t get to operate in facilities that have adequate ventilation.”

 

Over the past 10 years the number of car batteries shipped to Mexico from the United States has grown by nearly 20 percent, according to E.P.A. records included in the study by the two groups. In 2021, more than 75 percent of all used U.S. batteries were exported there in 2021, E.P.A. records showed.

 

At recycling plants, lead is removed from batteries, ground up, melted and turned into ingots that are used to make new batteries.

 

The world’s largest car battery maker, Clarios, which is based in Milwaukee, Wis., bought two plants in Monterrey in 2019, and the report found lead levels in soil outside its facilities that were well above the legal limit in Mexico of 800 parts per million. (The samples in the report were tested and analyzed by an independent laboratory.)

 

At one Clarios plant, a soil sample showed lead levels of 15,000 parts per million, while at the other Clarios facility, a sample showed 3,800 parts per million of lead.

 

Clarios closed its last U.S.-based car battery recycling facility, in South Carolina, in 2021, following a series of fines by the E.P.A. for violations involving air pollution, hazardous waste and the improper transportation of lead batteries.

 

Shipping batteries to Mexico would save the company 25 percent in recycling costs, according to a filing by Clarios with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

 

“Certainly there is cost savings if you don’t have to worry about upgrading your facility to meet the standards that are in place in the U.S.,” ‌‌Mr. Gottesfeld said.

 

A spokeswoman for Clarios said the company’s facilities use “strict safety protocols and we provide our employees with state of the art protective safety gear.”

 

“We work with local health, safety, and environmental authorities to ensure our facilities are not only in compliance, but set the benchmark for our industry,” said the spokeswoman, Ana Margarita Garza-Villarreal.

 

Though Mexico’s federal environmental agency has the power to shut down plants that violate environmental standards, agency documents show that officials temporarily closed parts of battery recycling plants just four times for air and soil contamination‌‌ in the past 23 years.

 

Mexican law requires plants to have filtration systems to eliminate the spread of lead dust and companies must provide workers with face masks. But some filter systems are outdated or break down, the wearing of face masks is not strictly enforced and lead dust containers are in work areas that are not properly ventilated, according to interviews by The Times with 15 current and former workers at battery recycling plants in Monterrey.

 

Óscar Nuñez, 32, said he worked at a recycling plant owned by a Mexican company where the ventilation did not work well and lead dust penetrated his gloves.

 

“It was like prison in there,” said Mr. Nuñez, who quit after three months over concerns for his health.

 

Elizabeth Coronado was a nurse at a Monterrey plant owned by Grupo Gonher, where Mr. González had worked, and was responsible for monitoring the health of workers in high lead exposure areas.

 

Of the roughly 300 workers whose blood samples she tested every three months, she said a third of them had 50 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood in their system. The average for battery recycling workers in the United States in 2022 was nine micrograms, according to a battery trade group.

 

Lead experts in the United States say workers whose lead level reaches 30 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood should be removed from the source of the metal.

 

“It’s alarming,” said Ms. Coronado, who left the plant in 2021 and now works at a local health clinic.

 

Ms. Coronado said the company typically gave workers with high levels of lead multivitamins and milk, neither of which experts say will do anything to ameliorate lead exposure. Instead, they say, the most effective treatments include giving patients medications that specifically target lead in the body and removes it.

 

Grupo Gonher did not respond to a request for comment.

 

Though no amount of lead in the body is safe, levels like those found in workers at the Gonher plant can have severe consequences, said Dr. Michael Kosnett, an expert on workplace lead exposure and an associate adjunct professor at the Colorado School of Public Health.

 

“It should not be tolerated,” he said. “Among the most significant long term adverse effects associated with blood lead in the teens or higher levels is a documented risk of death from heart disease.”

 

As for Mr. González, he said he had offered to curtain off containers holding lead dust. But his supervisor told him it was not a priority.

 

Mr. González said he was fired from the plant in 2021 ‌‌as part of what the company told him was a restructuring. In his five years at the plant, he had never missed a day of work, he said, and believed he was dismissed at least in part because of the concerns he raised repeatedly about lead exposure.

 

Mr. González, who now works renting music equipment for private events, said friends who work at the recycling plant say little has changed.

 

“There is a lot of venom there,” he said.

 

Chantal Flores and Lorena Ríos contributed reporting from Monterrey.


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5) How Do People Released From Prison Find Housing?

Thousands of people released from prison in New York go directly to homeless shelters.

By John J. Lennon, March 20, 2023

John J. Lennon went to prison at age 24 with a ninth-grade education and learned to write in workshop at Attica. Today, he is a contributing editor at Esquire. He’s currently incarcerated at Sullivan Correctional Facility

https://www.nytimes.com/2023/03/20/realestate/prison-parole-housing-shelters.html?action=click&module=Well&pgtype=Homepage&section=Real%20Estate

A man with short hair sits at a table wearing a dark-colored shirt with a name tag, and his hands pressed together. There are barred windows behind him letting in light.
When he was 24, John J. Lennon was sentenced to 25 years to life after being convicted of killing a man, and then three more for dealing drugs. He is planning to ask New York’s governor for clemency. Credit...Todd Heisler/The New York Times

Kevin Brooks hopes he won’t have to go to a homeless shelter. In 1999, Mr. Brooks and four others were convicted of murder, and he was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison.

 

Now 52, more mature and remorseful, he has a clean disciplinary record and a bachelor’s degree. He believes he has a good shot at getting out after he appears before the parole board in January 2024.

 

He’s less confident about where he’ll live.

 

Before Mr. Brooks went away, he was living with his newborn daughter and girlfriend in a three-bedroom apartment in a brownstone in Crown Heights that rented for about $800 a month. Today the space would go for more than $3,000 a month. The average rent in Manhattan is $4,200, in Brooklyn it’s about $3,700.

 

So next year around this time, Mr. Brooks figures he is likely to join thousands of other formerly incarcerated people who will leave prison and have nowhere to live. Among all releases to community supervision in New York state during 2021 (not just those released from prisons), about 23 percent went directly to shelters, according to the New York Department of Corrections and Community Supervision; another 8 percent were “undomiciled,” or went to places like halfway houses and hotels.

 

There isn’t much assistance for people getting out of prison. We get $40 and a one-way bus ticket. Many of us head to the Port Authority in New York City. I say us, because I, too, am in prison. I interviewed Mr. Brooks as we sat at a table bolted to the floor in the communal space of a cellblock in Sullivan Correctional Facility, the prison where we both currently live.

 

Feeling priced out and left out, many parolees turn to illegal hustles. The state corrections department told me in an email that about 38 percent of people released in 2017 returned to the agency’s custody within three years.

 

Looking for Help

 

Our access to assistance is currently being discussed among New York state legislators. In January, Brian Kavanagh, a progressive Democrat who chairs the Senate Committee on Housing, Construction and Community Development, reintroduced the Housing Access Voucher Program (S. 2804B), which had support from both the senate and the assembly last year, but ultimately did not receive that same support from the Governor’s office during budget negotiations. The bill would provide vouchers to people in immediate need of housing assistance, either facing eviction or homelessness. Its language has recently been updated to include people about to be released from state prisons.

 

“They should be allowed to apply for various resources in advance of their release date so they get a chance of not going from prison to shelter,” the senator told me.

 

It could be significant for formerly incarcerated people who are shut out of other housing and programs. We can’t stay with, or even visit, family or friends who live in public housing projects. This is prohibited by New York City Housing Authority, but another bill, currently before the New York City Council, aims to prevent housing discrimination on the basis of arrest record or criminal history.

 

Similarly, some formerly incarcerated people — those with lifetime sex offender status, those who were previously convicted of certain drug offenses in federally assisted housing, and anyone for whom there is a “preponderance of evidence” of criminal activity — are excluded from participating in the federal Section 8 program that subsidizes rent for people who earn less than 50 percent of the median income for the county or metropolitan area in which they live. (In New York City, the median individual income is $41,625, according to the latest data from the U.S. Census Bureau.)

 

Mr. Kavanagh expects legislation to pass. “I don’t know of any individual or organization that’s opposing this bill,” he told me in the fall, as a I called him from the prison yard. “What’s unusual is that the large real estate interests of New York have been quite active in supporting this.”

 

But there is some pushback.

 

Though Howard Husock, a senior fellow in Domestic Policy Studies at the American Enterprise Institute, a center-right think tank, said he believes housing for formerly incarcerated people is important, he questioned the practicality of making vouchers more accessible to people getting out.

 

“There will be a limited number of vouchers. We don’t want justice-involved persons in competition with poor New Yorkers,” Mr. Husock told me. “Saying ex-offenders are not precluded — I think that’s unfortunately likely to set off tensions. People who have not been justice-involved and are on that waiting list may be like, ‘Wait a minute. I worked and played by the rules and now I’m at the back of the line?’”

 

Mr. Husock also wondered if it made sense for a single individual leaving prison to get a voucher over a struggling family household. To him, it seemed more practical to send someone getting out to a halfway house or re-entry program.

 

Turns out, those beds are pretty limited, too.

 

Mr. Brooks is looking to go to a re-entry program like Fortune Society, which began 55 years ago as a support group for former prisoners and now helps about 7,000 people who were previously incarcerated with education, employment, and housing services. In 2002, Fortune opened the Castle, on Riverside Drive, which houses a community of 90 former prisoners at a time and offers individualized case planning and support groups. In 2010, it opened Castle Gardens, in Harlem, which is a residential building that provides stable housing for 63 Fortune Society clients.

 

That’s a total of 150 beds.

 

“In limited circumstances, we’ll screen an incarcerated person, like Mr. Brooks,” Stanley Richards, Fortune’s deputy chief executive, told me when I called him from the prison yard, “and we’ll consider him for placement in the Castle and work with parole to certify him as homeless and hold a bed.”

 

Mr. Brooks said he feels like it’s his only hope. His daughter, now 23, recently graduated college, but because of high rent, she’s still living with her mother, who purchased a home out in Canarsie with her new partner after Mr. Brooks went to prison. He can’t go there.

 

“I just want to get out, land a gig, and find a spot to live,” he said. “I hope Fortune can help with that.”

 

‘Plan B’

 

Reading  the real estate section of The New York Times, I see a Hell’s Kitchen studio co-op in the On the Market feature. It’s a half a million bucks and half the size of the old rent-stabilized railroad apartment where I lived around the corner on West 51 Street between 9th and 10th avenues as a teenager in the early ’90s. My mom tells me we paid $350 a month then. Today it goes for $3,700. Before that, we lived in a housing project, in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn. Rent: $100 a month.

 

I regularly see brownstones in Bedford-Stuyvesant advertised for millions. Darius Turner, who’s 34 and slim and tall, grew up in Bed-Stuy all his life, on Bedford Ave, between Greene and Lexington, around the corner from Lafayette Gardens.

 

“Yo, my brother just told me that he sees white people walking their dogs through L.G.,” Mr. Turner told me, laughing. “In a way, it’s good because Blacks and whites are mingling more. They’re not as fearful. But them white people pushed up the cost of living. I mean, a crib in the Stuy is thousands of dollars a month.”

 

He told me he grew up his whole life in the Stuy — played tag in the Stuy, shot hoops in the Stuy, hustled drugs in the Stuy, got shot in the Stuy, on two separate occasions. Mr. Turner, who’s rapper stage name was Propa Balla (now it’s Picasso XO) recalled opening shows for bigger artists.

 

In 2011, he pleaded guilty to robbery and received 10 years. In 2014, in Attica, he got two and a half more years added after a jury in rural Wyoming county found him guilty of promoting prison contraband (He was found with a sharpened toothbrush that he says was planted).

 

Mr. Turner will be released in February 2024 and he plans to live with his wife, who rents a two-bedroom apartment for $2,100 in East Flatbush. If the rap game doesn’t work out, his backup plan is to be a personal trainer. What if the relationship doesn’t work out, I asked? I pointed to the TV, which was playing “Love After Lockup,” a ratchet reality show that reminds us that romance is difficult after you are released.

 

“I mean, I always got a plan B,” Mr. Turner told me. “My Mom recently passed away and she left me a one-bedroom co-op. A family friend sublets it.”

 

Family Ties

 

Sometimes those sublet situations can get complicated, I told him.

 

When I was maybe 11 or 12, living with my mom and stepfather in Hell’s Kitchen, mom would put her name on lists for rent stabilized apartments. She’d fix them up and illegally sublet them. Onetime, she left a spare key with the super, who she believed had entered her tenant’s apartment and stolen money. When my family confronted the super, chaos erupted. Mom, my sister, my stepfather, and the tenant were all arrested. Outside the building, my brother-in-law had managed to pull me into the crowd. The super’s daughter cried for her father and pointed at my mother, cuffed behind her back. “You don’t cry for your mother?” Mom yelled to me.

 

Mom eventually went legit, got her agent’s license, became a broker, then opened up her own shop with the eponymous name “Laura O’Connell Real Estate.” I became a drug dealer. In 2001, I shot and killed a man in Brooklyn. At 24, I wound up with 25 years to life, plus three more for selling drugs. I made Mom cry. I broke another mother’s heart, too. The young man I killed grew up in the same Brooklyn projects I did. Over the years, I felt a lot of shame for what I did, remorse for the people I hurt. It makes me want to get out and do things the right way this time.

 

Around 2010, in Attica, I joined a creative writing workshop and honed my craft in a cell, sitting on an upturned bucket, tucked between the toilet and bunk, reverse engineering magazine articles, poking at a typewriter for hours. I’m about to submit a clemency petition to the governor, asking for her to shave some years off my sentence. Having a solid re-entry plan, how you’ll earn income, and where you’ll live, is all part of the process.

 

Mom is 77 now. She closed her real estate agency, cashed out and bought a condo in Florida. Since I’ve been earning income and paying taxes, Mom tells me she regrets she didn’t put my name on a few different lists for rent-stabilized Manhattan buildings. They didn’t need to know I was incarcerated, she tells me, because it takes years for your name to come up.

 

I’ve done OK for myself, I tell her.

 

Today I’m a contributing editor for Esquire, and I recently landed a book deal. In the last few years, I’ve been earning income, paying taxes, and saving money.  I also won a fellowship from Galaxy Gives, a private foundation that funds organizations and leaders focused on criminal justice reform.

 

I can’t stop thinking about what it means that all these achievements are my only hope to afford a place at the market rate. And what it means that Mr. Brooks, and most of the others leaving prison, only hope to avoid a shelter.


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6) Video Shows Virginia Man’s Death in Custody

Seven deputies in Henrico County have been charged with second-degree murder in the death of Irvo Otieno at a hospital.

By Campbell Robertson and Christine Hauser, March 21, 2023

https://www.nytimes.com/2023/03/21/us/irvo-otieno-virginia-police-video.html

Caroline Ouko, the mother of Irvo Otieno, holds a portrait of her son at the Dinwiddie Courthouse in Dinwiddie, Va., last week.

Caroline Ouko, the mother of Irvo Otieno, holds a portrait of her son at the Dinwiddie Courthouse in Dinwiddie, Va., last week. Credit...Daniel Sangjib Min/Richmond Times-Dispatch, via Associated Press

Surveillance video from a state psychiatric hospital in Virginia shows a group of sheriff’s deputies and medical staff piling on a handcuffed man, Irvo Otieno, and pinning him for nearly 11 minutes until his death on March 6.

 

The video, which was obtained by The Washington Post before its expected release on Tuesday, shows at least seven deputies from the Henrico County sheriff’s office enter a room at Central State Hospital in Dinwiddie County dragging Mr. Otieno, who is shirtless and in handcuffs and leg shackles. The deputies push him into a small couch and then force him to the floor, where they pinion him until his death while medical staff stand aside, the video shows.

 

The Dinwiddie County prosecutor, Ann Cabell Baskervill, has charged seven sheriff’s deputies and three employees of the hospital with second degree murder. She had announced that she was publicly releasing the video on Tuesday, though some defense lawyers had filed motions to block its release. However, The Post accessed the video through a court filing and published it.

 

Mr. Otieno, who had long been struggling with mental health and had been taken from his home three days earlier, had been moved to the hospital by sheriff’s deputies from a county jail earlier that day. In the video, people who seem to be part of the medical staff walk in and out of the room as the deputies pile on Mr. Otieno, 28, pinning his legs and arms and pushing his body down to the floor.

 

Mr. Otieno’s family said he was deprived of medication while in jail that he needed for his mental illness. They disputed that he was violent at the hospital.

 

The seven deputies from the Henrico County Sheriff’s Office have been placed on administrative leave, the authorities there said. Sheriff Alisa Gregory said the events of March 6 “represent a tragedy because Mr. Otieno’s life was lost.”

 

In court last Wednesday, Ms. Baskervill said that Mr. Otieno had suffocated from the weight of the deputies smothering him, CBS 6 News reported.

 

“There is video footage of exactly what happened, and he was not agitated and combative,” Ms. Baskervill said of Mr. Otieno. “He was held down on the ground, pinned on the ground for 12 minutes by all seven of our defendants charged here.”

 

Mr. Otieno was a well-known athlete growing up in Henrico, according to an attorney for his family, Mark Krudys. He began struggling with his mental health as a young adult. On March 3, he appeared to be experiencing distress and walked to a neighbor’s lawn, where he picked up some solar-powered lights laid out on the property, Mr. Krudys said.

 

A neighbor called the Henrico Police Department. Officers placed him under an emergency custody order before taking him to a hospital “for further evaluation,” the police said in a statement.

 

At the hospital, police said, Mr. Otieno was “physically assaultive” toward officers, who arrested him, took him to the Henrico County Jail and charged him with three counts of assault on a law enforcement officer and one count each of disorderly conduct in a hospital and vandalism.

 

On March 6, Mr. Otieno was taken from the jail to the state hospital, where, the prosecutor said, the deputies smothered him.

 

Eduardo Medina contributed reporting.


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7) Strains Emerge Inside the Union That Beat Amazon

Nearly a year after its victory on Staten Island, the Amazon Labor Union is grappling with election losses and internal conflict.

By Noam Scheiber, March 21, 2023

Noam Scheiber has covered union organizing at Amazon since 2019 and has traveled to its Staten Island site several times.

https://www.nytimes.com/2023/03/21/business/amazon-labor-union.html

A man in a black jacket and a hood, holding a megaphone, points toward a group of people in a field holding signs promoting a unionization effort.
Christian Smalls, right, the Amazon Labor union president, at a rally Saturday outside an Amazon air hub in Kentucky. Union supporters are split over whether to organize additional sites or focus primarily on securing a contract at a Staten Island warehouse. Credit...Jon Cherry for The New York Times

One year after its surprise victory at a Staten Island warehouse, the only union in the country representing Amazon workers has endured a series of setbacks and conflicts that have caused longtime supporters to question if it will survive.

 

In interviews, a dozen people who have been closely involved with the Amazon Labor Union said the union had made little progress bringing Amazon to the bargaining table, to say nothing of securing a contract. Many cited lopsided losses at two other warehouses, unstable funding and an internal feud that has made it difficult for the union to alter a strategy that they considered flawed.

 

At the heart of the feud is a dispute between the union’s president, Christian Smalls, and several longtime organizers.

 

Mr. Smalls’s former allies complain that he has pursued elections at other warehouses without strong support from workers or a plan to ensure victory. They say he has focused on travel and public appearances while neglecting the contract fight at the Staten Island warehouse, known as JFK8, where Amazon is still contesting the election result.

 

The critics, who include the union’s former treasurer and its former organizing director, favor an alternative approach: amassing enough supporters to credibly threaten a strike and pressure Amazon to negotiate. The process could take months but could increase the chances of winning a contract and collecting dues, without which the union is dependent on donations from other unions and third parties.

 

“We’re talking to workers, having one-on-ones, growing our power in the building,” said Tristian Martinez, a JFK8 employee who began helping Mr. Smalls organize workers early in the pandemic. “That’s where it matters. Chris flying all over world is not going to make us get to a contract any sooner.”

 

For his part, Mr. Smalls said that the union was continuing to push for a contract at JFK8, and that a strike threat was counterproductive because it would alarm workers who feared losing their incomes. Amazon had warned workers that unionizing could lead to a strike during which they wouldn’t be paid.

 

“We’re not going to play into that,” he said in an interview.

 

He favors filing for elections at other warehouses without waiting to build majority support, he said, because such support can be fleeting amid high turnover among warehouse workers, and because the momentum and media attention created by an election filing can rally workers to the union’s side.

 

Mr. Smalls called the revolt by his former allies an attempted coup and emphasized that many of the dissidents are white while the union leadership is largely Black, as are many workers. (Ruel Mohan, a mixed-race worker involved with the union who is one of the critics, said of the rift: “I didn’t see anything that had to do with race.”)

 

At a tense union meeting in December, Mr. Smalls told longtime organizers that they should step aside if they couldn’t get along with him or those loyal to him. “You got a problem with me? Deuces,” he said, using a slang term for “goodbye.” The two factions have been operating independently since the meeting.

 

While strategic debates and personal rivalries are not unusual in the labor movement, the stakes for the Amazon Labor Union are higher than most. Given the e-commerce giant’s growing sway over industries including retail, groceries and health care, many strategists doubt that organized labor can reverse its decline without gaining traction at Amazon.

 

That would be a tall order for a union under any circumstances. But the Amazon Labor Union’s fracturing has complicated the task. Labor’s hopes of winning at Amazon now hinge on taking on one of the world’s wealthiest companies — amid growing challenges within the union.

 

It was only days after the Staten Island victory that the union got its first hint of the struggle ahead. Amazon filed more than two dozen formal objections to the election result, which would tie the union up in hearings into the summer. The company soundly defeated the union in an election at a warehouse across the street the next month, and later restricted off-duty employees’ access to break rooms, which organizers had relied on to recruit co-workers. Amazon said it had made the change to ensure employee safety and building security.

 

As a guerrilla leader who helped raise an insurgent army from a bus stop outside JFK8, Mr. Smalls had been dazzlingly effective. But he could appear shaky as the president of an organization that formally represented thousands of workers.

 

Though he was compelling in public appearances and proved adept at raising money from outside groups, he showed little interest in matters of governance or budgeting, three former officials said. Organizers struggled to reach him as he bounded between appointments in places like California, Texas, Nevada and Washington, D.C.

 

Finally, late last summer, the union appeared to find some stability. Jane McAlevey, a prominent organizer and an author who had been advising the group, led two intensive training sessions to help firm up support among JFK8 workers and pressure the company to negotiate.

 

According to several people who attended, the sessions lasted about six hours each and included role-playing about how to approach workers, techniques for tracking support within the warehouse and strategies for gradually ramping up protest actions, from circulating a petition up to a strike.

 

Just before Labor Day, a hearing officer for the National Labor Relations Board recommended dismissing Amazon’s election challenge, a big step toward certifying the union’s victory. A few weeks later, the company announced a raise of 25 to 75 cents an hour at the Staten Island warehouse, an increase whose limited size appeared to frustrate workers and increase interest in the union. At a union-sponsored barbecue soon after, many workers signed a petition demanding that Amazon provide an immediate cost-of-living increase.

 

But the momentum proved short-lived.

 

In October, workers at an Amazon warehouse in Southern California filed a petition for an election to join the Amazon Labor Union. In backing the petition, Mr. Smalls broke an agreement with Ms. McAlevey — reviewed by The New York Times — in which Mr. Smalls had committed to scale back his travel and refrain from backing elections at most other warehouses until the union was actively negotiating a contract on Staten Island.

 

“I was in that meeting,” said Heather Goodall, the lead Amazon Labor Union organizer at a warehouse near Albany, N.Y., known as ALB1. Under the agreement, she said, “Christian couldn’t travel, no more filing after ALB1.” But “what does he do?” she continued. “He goes to L.A.”

 

Ms. McAlevey withdrew from advising the union not long after. In an interview, Mr. Smalls argued that a worker-led movement should not turn down workers in other buildings, and that Ms. McAlevey’s experience was not directly relevant to Amazon. (He appeared in Kentucky on Saturday to throw the union’s support behind an organizing campaign at an Amazon air hub.)

 

In mid-October, the union lost an election at ALB1 by a roughly two-to-one ratio. Many Amazon Labor Union organizers and officials had worried that the election, which the union filed for in August, was another case in which Mr. Smalls overextended himself.

 

Ms. Goodall said that workers and organizers in Albany did not receive the support that Mr. Smalls had promised, and that his visits typically happened without much advance notice and were difficult to plan around.

 

Mr. Smalls said that the union’s job was to enable workers in other buildings “to take a shot” but that it didn’t control what happened there. “The leaders have to step up,” he said. “They have to educate themselves.”

 

In an Amazon Labor Union board meeting shortly after the election, organizers complained to Mr. Smalls that the Albany campaign had hurt perceptions of the union’s competence, according to four people who were present. They pushed for a process to determine which warehouses the union would support and to add board members to make the union’s leadership more responsive to their concerns.

 

The loss “made organizing inside JFK8 harder,” said David-Desyrée Sherwood, a JFK8 worker who also served as a union organizer. “I had workers come up to me and ask, ‘What happened in Albany?’”

 

As the union prepared to meet again in December, Mr. Smalls appeared to be asserting more control, several workers and organizers recalled.

 

After winning an election, a union must file a constitution and bylaws with the Labor Department that typically lay out parameters like the method of selecting officers and the length of their terms. The Amazon Labor Union created a constitution in the fall of 2021, around the time it filed for an election at JFK8, and modified it after its victory.

 

Both versions were largely written by some of the current dissidents, including the union’s co-founder and former treasurer, Connor Spence, and they tended to give ordinary workers considerable influence, with low bars for running for office and amending the constitution.

 

But before the meeting in December, Mr. Smalls oversaw changes to the union’s constitution that restricted worker input in certain ways. Most notably, the document, on file with the U.S. Labor Department, delayed leadership elections that were to take place within a few months until after the union ratified a contract, a process that can take years if it happens at all.

 

“Going forward, here’s the structure,” Mr. Smalls said at the meeting, according to a recording shared with The Times. “If you can’t abide by this structure, that’s the door.”

 

Most of the volunteer organizers in the room walked out, according to a half-dozen people in attendance. Mr. Martinez, the longtime organizer, said he had told Mr. Smalls: “Chris, I cannot support this constitution. We are not leaving the A.L.U. by any means, but we do not agree with this.”

 

The union’s new director of organizing, Evangeline Byars, said it was pointless to have an election before the union had a more systematic way of interacting with workers in the building.

 

“Is it going to be democratic? No. Connor and them are just going to come into power,” said Ms. Byars, a former official at a local transit workers’ union who is a paid staff member of the A.L.U.

 

Since the December meeting, the two factions have largely operated on separate tracks. The dissidents have continued to apply Ms. McAlevey’s organizing model, regularly talking to workers in each department, identifying supporters and potential organizers, and preparing for a possible strike if Amazon refuses to bargain.

 

Mr. Smalls continues to travel widely — he has visited Atlanta, Philadelphia, Los Angeles and London this year, appearing at labor protests and speaking events — but attends union meetings regularly. Ms. Byars leads shop steward trainings and said 12 workers had completed the program so far. She said the union began a campaign in January to make JFK8 workers aware that they had access to workers’ compensation.

 

With no contract in sight, the union remains dependent on funding from outside groups whose appetite for donations appears uneven. The Omidyar Network, a liberal philanthropy group, recently contributed $250,000 to a worker support and education fund affiliated with the union.

 

But a person familiar with the A.L.U. ’s payroll who declined to be identified for fear of retribution said the union had at times been late distributing paychecks in recent months.

 

Mr. Smalls said paychecks could be delayed if the union missed its deadline for processing payroll. “Sometimes it happens because our treasurer is a worker,” he said, stressing that the union was financially sound.

 

But he acknowledged that the union’s funding was somewhat erratic. “It comes in waves,” he said. “We have to get donations. That’s what’s been keeping us afloat. That’s the reason I travel so much.”


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8) She Posted Online About the War in Ukraine. Then She Faced a Prison Term.

The case of Olesya Krivtsova, a Russian student who ended up on the Kremlin’s official terrorist list, has underscored the perils of using social media to criticize the Kremlin’s war in Ukraine.

By Valerie Hopkins, March 22, 2023

Reporting from Arkhangelsk, in northern Russia

https://www.nytimes.com/2023/03/22/world/europe/russia-ukraine-social-media-crackdown.html
A woman standing, two men in suits on either side. She wears a headband and a security official is nearby.

Olesya Krivtsova in court in Russia. She said she later fled the country because she did not believe her chances of being exonerated were high amid a broader Kremlin crackdown on free speech. Credit...Nanna Heitmann for The New York Times


Sitting in a small courtroom flanked by her two lawyers last month, Olesya Krivtsova was facing a stiff penalty for her fondness for posting on social media. Barely 20 and until this year a university student in northern Russia, she was accused of “justifying terrorism” and “discrediting the Russian armed forces,” and was facing up to a decade in prison.

 

Her apparent crime? An Instagram post asking why Ukrainians had rejoiced when the main bridge to Russian-occupied Crimea was attacked in October.

 

The post eventually landed Ms. Krivtsova on the Kremlin’s official list of terrorists and extremists. She was placed under house arrest and forbidden from using the phone or the internet.

 

Ms. Krivtsova did not wait for a courtroom verdict: Last week, she fled the country.

 

“I decided to leave because I was desperate,” Ms. Krivtsova said by telephone on Friday from Vilnius, Lithuania. “It is impossible to prove anything to the Russian court.”

 

As the Kremlin intensifies its crackdown on free speech, social media platforms have become a more frequent target for punishment. The government is increasingly penalizing people for posts it considers critical of the fighting in Ukraine — with fines, imprisonment and, in extreme cases, temporarily losing custody of their children.

 

In the Ryazan region south of Moscow, for instance, investigators opened a criminal case against a man who posted a joke about the Russian retreat from Kherson, in southern Ukraine. A student who ran an antiwar channel on the messaging app Telegram was denounced by the rector of his university for posts that criticized the Kremlin’s invasion of Ukraine as well as alleged Russian atrocities in Bucha and Mariupol. This month, he was sentenced to eight and a half years in a penal colony.

 

The crackdown on social media comes as Russia also moves against activists, rights groups and news media outlets that express or report on antiwar sentiment, part of what critics say is a chilling effort to eliminate viewpoints that diverge from the Kremlin’s propaganda. President Vladimir V. Putin took the opportunity to burnish the state’s messaging this week as he appeared with China’s top leader, Xi Jinping, in Moscow.

 

“This is the logic of intimidation,” said Sergei Smirnov, the editor in chief of the Russian news outlet Mediazona, which reports on the country’s criminal justice system. “We are dealing with a police state that believes that we should simply punish more severely so that there are fewer and fewer people who express their opinion openly.”

 

Ms. Krivtsova’s case had resonated among rights activists and opponents of the war in Ukraine — as a symbol of bravery for ordinary Russians, but also as a cautionary tale for anyone who would dare follow in her footsteps. Her posts — on a private Instagram story available only to friends — were reported to officials by her fellow students at Northern (Arctic) Federal University, some of whom she knew personally.

 

“I understand if a person refuses to speak out for his safety, because the consequences are serious not only for the person, but for the whole family, for all their loved ones,” she told journalists before a recent court hearing. “Everything that I’m going through right now is terrible.”

 

This week, the Russian government added her to the federal wanted list, and a court ruled that she be arrested in absentia, according to Russian news media.

 

Almost 6,000 Russians have been accused of discrediting the Russian Army since the invasion, according to OVD-Info, a rights group that tracks political repression. Of those, more than 2,000 cases are related to comments posted on social media, the group said.

 

Russia treats the first charge as an administrative offense, which usually comes with a fine or some prison time. But a repeat offense — which can even involve a social media post from years in the past — carries criminal liability and a potential sentence of 10 years.

 

There are 447 defendants facing criminal charges for antiwar activity in Russia, according to OVD-Info. Most are charged with “disseminating false information,” but Ms. Krivtsova and several dozen others are charged with “justifying, promoting and inciting terrorism.”

 

Ms. Krivtsova said she realized that her chances of being exonerated were greatly diminished after train tickets were purchased in her name. She denied buying the tickets and said she believed the security services had done so to imply that she would attempt an escape. The prosecution was unable to provide any evidence showing that she had bought them.

 

Ms. Krivtsova said she believed that things in Russia would continue to deteriorate for some time.

 

“When I committed this crime,” she said, referring to the charge of discrediting the military, “the sentence was for three years, now it is five. And I know that things will get worse, that there will be criminal liability not even for public expressions but for private beliefs. Everything is building toward that.”

 

Since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, the state has placed even tighter limits on free speech, banning websites and social media platforms and making it a crime to share information about the war that did not come from a state source. Though Facebook and Instagram are banned in Russia, people still use them through workarounds, along with Telegram and VKontakte.

 

The long arms of the bureaucratic state are enforcing the new policies — but they have help from ordinary people who are serving as its eyes and ears. Ms. Krivtsova said she was unaware that a group of students at her university had formed their own group chat to discuss the posts of students who oppose the war with a view toward denouncing them.

 

Shortly after Mr. Putin ordered a full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Ms. Krivtsova posted comments on social media condemning the war. On May 9, the day Russia commemorates its contributions to defeating Nazi Germany in World War II, Ms. Krivtsova took her activity a step further: She printed and distributed leaflets around Arkhangelsk, a regional capital on the White Sea, pointing out that there are World War II veterans still living in Ukraine, some of whom had died under Russian shelling. She called for an end to the war.

 

The next day, officials from the Center for Combating Extremism forced her to “apologize to the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation on camera,” she said. They also extracted a written confession and charged her with “discrediting” the armed forces.

 

Ms. Krivtsova continued to express her opinions online, something that had been tolerated before the invasion.

 

In October, after the Ukrainian attack on the bridge to Crimea, which Russia illegally annexed in 2014, Ms. Krivtsova wrote a post in which she sought to understand the source of many Ukrainians’ glee over the episode, which Moscow considers an act of terrorism. A screenshot appeared in her classmates’ chat group — with the comment that it was surely illegal.

 

“Denunciation is the duty of a patriot,” one of the students wrote, according to screenshots of the discussion viewed by The New York Times.

 

One friend in the group saw the chat and warned her. But she did not think her classmates would really go through with it.

 

The head of her department lauded the students who denounced her.

 

“Society is a social organism, and it can get sick,” said Artyom V. Makulin, the head of the humanities program. “Every society has an immune system.”

 

He said he believed students like her had been under the influence of “ideological hypnosis.”

 

Ms. Krivtsova said she had never met Mr. Makulin personally, but she said that did not stop him from writing a negative character reference about her for her court appearance.

 

On campus, a vast majority of students approached by a Times journalist said they did not know about Ms. Krivtsova’s case. Those who did said they would not discuss the topic of the war online or even among their friends and classmates.

 

One freshman history student, Aleksandr, who did not give his surname for security reasons, said it was “beyond scary” to study in an environment where students could condemn you to years in prison.

 

In Vilnius, Ms. Krivtsova has a lot on her to-do list: finding an apartment, a job and a new set of clothes, because she left in disguise wearing a “terrible, shabby masculine jacket.” She said she had come to terms with the fact that she would probably never see her grandmother again.

 

But she finally has one thing she could not have in Russia. In a video she posted after her escape, she showed herself cutting off the ankle bracelet she had worn during house arrest. A tattoo of a spider with Mr. Putin’s face that says “Big brother is watching” was visible on her other leg.

 

She held up a drawing of a broken set of handcuffs accompanied by one word: “Freedom.”


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9) In Memphis, Car Seizures Are a Lucrative and Punishing Police Tactic

Vehicle seizures have been used to combat street racing and other crimes, but critics say that even people not convicted of a crime have been left for months without their cars.

By Jessica Jaglois and Mike Baker, March 23, 2023

https://www.nytimes.com/2023/03/23/us/memphis-police-vehicle-seizures-forfeiture.html

When Ralph Jones, 70, was cited in Memphis last year, his truck, along with the welding tools inside, was seized.
When Ralph Jones, 70, was cited in Memphis last year, his truck, along with the welding tools inside, was seized. Credit...Brandon Dill for The New York Times

MEMPHIS — As he drove to work on a summer afternoon in Memphis last year, Ralph Jones saw a woman on the sidewalk flagging him down. Thinking she was in distress or needed a ride, Mr. Jones said, he pulled over.

 

After a brief conversation in which she tried to lure him to a nearby motel, Mr. Jones said, he drove away but was soon stopped by the police and yanked from his truck. The 70-year-old welder said that with just 86 cents in his pocket, he had neither the intent nor the money to solicit a prostitute, as the officers were claiming.

 

His protests were to no avail. Mr. Jones was cited, and his truck, along with the expensive tools inside, was seized. The charges were eventually dropped, but the truck and his work equipment remained corralled in a city impound lot for six weeks, when prosecutors finally agreed to return it in exchange for a $750 payment.

 

“It’s nothing but a racket,” Mr. Jones said.

 

Police departments around the country have long used asset forfeiture laws to seize property believed to be associated with criminal activity, a tactic intended to deprive lawbreakers of ill-gotten gains, deter future crimes and, along the way, provide a lucrative revenue source for police departments.

 

But it became a favored law-enforcement tactic in Memphis, where the elite street crime unit involved in the death of Tyre Nichols on Jan. 7, known as the Scorpion unit, was among several law enforcement teams in the city making widespread use of vehicle seizures.

 

Like Mr. Jones, some of the people affected by the seizures had not been convicted of any crime, and defense lawyers said they disproportionately affected low-income residents, and people of color.

 

Over the past decade, civil rights advocates in several states have successfully pushed to make it harder for the police to seize property, but Tennessee continues to have some of the most aggressive seizure laws in the country.

 

While some states now require a criminal conviction before forfeiting property, Tennessee’s process can be much looser, requiring only that the government show, in a civil process, that the property was more likely than not to have been connected to certain types of criminal activity — a less rigorous burden of proof. Tennessee allows local law enforcement agencies to keep the bulk of the proceeds of the assets they seize.

 

And the process for getting property back in the state can be prohibitive for those who have little money or the ability to hire a lawyer: Those who fail to file a claim and post a $350 bond within 30 days automatically forfeit their property.

 

“Tennessee’s forfeiture laws are among the nation’s worst,” said Lisa Knepper, a senior director of strategic research at the Institute for Justice, a nonprofit law firm that has called for changes in state and federal forfeiture laws.

 

In Memphis, some of the more than 700 vehicles seized last year were taken from people who were ultimately found guilty of serious criminal charges. But other residents reported in interviews that they were compelled to pay large fees to recover their vehicles even when they had not been convicted of any crime.

 

In 2021, Memphis Police Chief Cerelyn Davis came forward with the city’s plan to combat growing incidents of reckless driving and drag racing with vehicle seizures,. This happened at around the same time that the city was launching the Scorpion unit — an acronym for the department’s Street Crimes Operation to Restore Peace in Our Neighborhoods.

 

No longer would police officers be merely issuing citations to reckless drivers who endangered others, she said, seeming to acknowledge that such seizures might not ultimately stand up in court.

 

“When we identify individuals that are reckless driving to a point where they put other lives in danger, we want to take your car, too,” she said. “Take the car. Even if the case gets dropped in court. We witnessed it. You did it. You might be inconvenienced for three days without your car. That’s enough.”

 

Mayor Jim Strickland was also a strong supporter of the seizure policy and even proposed destroying cars used by drag racers and other reckless drivers. “I don’t care if they serve a day in jail,” he said last year. “Let me get their cars, and then once a month we’ll line them all up, maybe at the old fairgrounds, Liberty Park, and just smash them.”

 

Police officers said it was on suspicion of reckless driving that they first pulled over Mr. Nichols, a 29-year-old Black man who died after a long and brutal beating by Scorpion officers. Five officers have been charged with murder in the case. Chief Davis subsequently said that she had seen nothing to support the reckless driving allegation. Nichols’s car was taken to the city’s impound lot.

 

The Scorpion unit was touted for its record of seizing drugs, cash and cars. In just the first few months of its operations, the city reported that the elite unit had seized some 270 vehicles.

 

Many of the vehicle seizures have revolved around drugs. In those instances, according to several defense lawyers, the agency often seized a vehicle based on a claim that it was being used in a drug-dealing operation — a common basis for such seizures in many cities, intended to deprive drug dealers of their profits and the ability to continue their work.

 

But even some of those not convicted of a crime said they spent weeks without a car while trying to navigate a complicated court process.

 

Filing a claim in court requires posting a $350 bond. Sometimes, defense lawyers said, the authorities managing the case may offer to release the car without requiring a court hearing if a person pays a fee that can amount to thousands of dollars.

 

Shawn Douglas Jr. lost his car in the fall after being stopped at a Memphis gas station by officers who reported finding two clear baggies containing marijuana inside a backpack.

 

Mr. Douglas was soon in handcuffs, arrested on suspicion of a felony drug infraction, an allegation he denied. His car was sent to impound.

 

In an interview, Mr. Douglas said one of the arresting officers commented to him about his 2015 Dodge Charger: “He said, ‘That would be a great police vehicle. When we take those vehicles we hope people don’t come get them back so we can do drug busts out of them.’”

 

Months later, Mr. Douglas’s criminal charges had been dropped, but his car was still in police custody. He was only able to recover it after paying $925, records show; crews towed it out to a dusty lot and handed it over to him, its battery dead. Mr. Douglas had to struggle with battery cables to get it started.

 

“It cost a lot of money,” Mr. Douglas said. “It puts you back on everything and creates more stress. When you can’t pay bills, you can’t do anything.”

 

Neither the police department nor the district attorney’s office responded to questions about the forfeiture cases of Mr. Douglas and others interviewed for this article, and the police chief only briefly addressed the city’s forfeiture policy.

 

In Memphis, as in many cities, revenues from such impound and forfeiture fees are returned to support policing activities, becoming a regular source of revenue.

 

Memphis has not disclosed how much money it generated for the hundreds of vehicles that were forfeited. The city did report seizing some $1.7 million in cash last year, winning forfeiture of nearly $1.3 million.

 

This income is most often being generated from the city’s poorest residents, defense lawyers said.

 

“It’s unfair to a lot of the poorer citizens in Memphis,” said Arthur Horne, who has represented such clients. “It’s a huge tax.”

 

Vehicle seizures have never been a priority in the city’s overall crime-fighting strategy, Chief Davis said in a brief interview, adding that any money gained from forfeitures was not essential to police operations.

 

“We haven’t put a high level of priority on asset forfeiture here in Memphis,” she said. “We put more of a priority on violent crime, reducing violent crime.”

 

“It’s not like we’re out trying seize vehicles. We have a budget to support the police department.”

 

Seven states do not give forfeiture revenues to law enforcement. A few states, such as New Mexico, Maine and North Carolina, do not permit civil proceedings and allow forfeiture only after criminal convictions.

 

A bill pending in Congress proposes a series of new rules that would raise the standards for the government to win forfeiture, give access to lawyers for people trying to recover their property and end profit incentives by sending revenues to the Treasury Department’s general fund.

 

John Flynn, the president of the National District Attorneys Association, said efforts seeking to limit forfeitures have at times brought together lawmakers on the left and the libertarian right. But he said such efforts could go too far, undermining a law-enforcement tool that he said provides a deterrent to wrongdoers and turns over illegal criminal profits to those trying to fight crime.

 

“From a prosecutor’s standpoint, any money or vehicles or property gained through illegal conduct should be forfeited,” Mr. Flynn said.

 

He said safeguards allowed people to present evidence that their property was not acquired through illegal means.

 

In Memphis, at the city’s crowded impound lot north of town, cars towed in from around the city for various reasons mix with recovered stolen vehicles and cars seized by the police. Tow trucks buzz in regularly, and a fine coat of dust from a nearby limestone supply company settles over everything.

 

A dozen shoppers were on hand one recent morning looking at a GMC Denali that was up for auction. It looked to be in mint condition on the passenger side, but 20 or so bullet holes dotted the driver’s side door.

 

Further down the lot, Kyle Lyons was standing next to a pile of belongings that he had retrieved from his 2010 BMW, which had been seized in July by police officers who said they had found heroin in the vehicle. Mr. Lyons, who said he had struggled with addiction, was hoping to get back thousands of dollars worth of Craftsman tools that had been taken along with the car — equipment he needed to work.

 

Once his car was gone, he said, he had lost nearly everything else.

 

“Everything I use to make money with was gone,” Mr. Lyons said. “I couldn’t work, couldn’t go out and buy no more. I was homeless for four months.”

 

He has left Memphis and moved home to Kentucky. His car is still impounded.


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10) Los Angeles School Workers Are on Strike, and Parents Say They Get It

Both parents and the striking school district employees are on the same side of the economic divide in one of the nation’s most expensive cities.

By Kurtis Lee and Jill Cowan, March 22, 2023

https://www.nytimes.com/2023/03/22/us/la-schools-strike.html

Diana Cruz and her children outside their home in Los Angeles.
Diana Cruz and her children outside their home in Los Angeles. Credit...Allison Dinner for The New York Times

LOS ANGELES — Since Tuesday, Diana Cruz has juggled her stay-at-home job as an executive assistant with the care of her children after the Los Angeles school strike forced their classes to be canceled for three days.

 

Ms. Cruz earns $36,000 a year and is raising her two daughters and teenage son in a two-bedroom apartment in Los Angeles, where she splits the $1,700 rent with her mother.

 

A few miles away, Yolanda Mims Reed makes about $24 an hour as a part-time special education assistant at Hamilton High School. She supplements her income by caring for an older woman and by doing hair.

 

Parents like Ms. Cruz may be flustered by the strike, but few are angry with the strikers like Ms. Reed.

 

The parents see their lives mirrored in the struggles of the bus drivers, cafeteria workers and classroom aides walking the picket lines — working-class residents who take on multiple jobs to survive in Southern California.

 

“If you’re not making massive six-figure salaries, then, yeah, it’s hard,” Ms. Cruz, 33, said. “How can you not support their cause?”

 

The strike has sharply illustrated the economic divide in modern Los Angeles, where low-wage workers can barely scrap together rent while affluent professionals blocks away are willing to pay $13 for a coconut smoothie. In this case, the school district’s working-class parents and school workers are on the same side of the divide.

 

The Los Angeles Unified School District, the nation’s second-largest, relies on tens of thousands of staff members who are struggling to keep up with rising costs in a state that lacks enough housing. Most of the families they serve are in the same boat, with 89 percent of the district’s households qualifying as economically disadvantaged, according to district data.

 

Housing is the biggest expense for people living in the Los Angeles area, according to the latest Bureau of Labor Statistics data. Residents devote 38 percent of their yearly spending to housing, compared with the national average of roughly 34 percent, according to the agency.

 

“The high cost of living in Los Angeles permeates every aspect of life and often forces low-income residents into impossible choices between basic needs like housing, safety, health care and food,” said Kyla Thomas, a sociologist at the University of Southern California Dornsife Center for Economic and Social Research. “Many in L.A. live on the brink of crisis.”

 

LABarometer, a survey that the Dornsife Center conducts to track social conditions and attitudes in the region, found that about 60 percent of local tenants were “rent-burdened,” meaning that they spend more than 30 percent of their household income on housing.

 

Griselda Perez, 51, said that her family stretched to afford their $2,000 rent for a two-bedroom apartment in the Boyle Heights neighborhood. Her eldest son, 20, shares a room with his two younger brothers, 11 and 9, who attend district schools. Every day, she said, the family feels the squeeze of gentrification, as more people with higher incomes move east from downtown.

 

Ms. Perez said she tried to explain the strike to her sons by likening their situation — they cannot afford birthday parties and trips to Disneyland — to the challenges faced by the people who work at their schools.

 

“When I see the cafeteria workers, when I see the lady at the front door, when I see the lady working at the parent center, we talk mom to mom,” she said. “The struggles that they have are the same struggles that we have.”

 

The walkout continued on Wednesday with picket lines at schools and campus facilities, including at district headquarters in downtown Los Angeles. School support employees have been joined by the district’s 35,000 teachers in the work stoppage. The strike is expected to end on Thursday.

 

The Local 99 branch of the Service Employees International Union, which represents 30,000 support workers in Los Angeles Unified, said that half of its members who responded to a 2022 internal survey said they worked a second job.

 

The union also said that its members earned an average of $25,000 a year — a figure that Los Angeles Unified officials said included both part- and full-time employees. The full-time salary average was unclear.

 

The union noted that 64 percent of its members were Latino and 20 percent were Black. The families they serve are likewise overwhelmingly Latino, some 74 percent, an outgrowth of broad migration and population trends.

 

Austin Beutner, who served as the district’s superintendent during the coronavirus pandemic, said that a vast majority of parents understood the plight of the Local 99 members because they lived in the same neighborhoods. He said the half-dozen school principals he spoke to on Tuesday said they were seeing overwhelming support from parents for the staff members.

 

“The intersection of school staff and the community is tight and close,” Mr. Beutner said. “They are the community. So many of them have family members in schools or neighbors in schools.”

 

Local 99 has leaned on that support and tried to frame its contract battle as a fight for low-wage workers across Los Angeles. And parental backing — for now — could help the union at the negotiating table.

 

Workers are seeking a 30 percent overall raise, as well as an additional $2-an-hour increase for the lowest-paid employees. The union’s members have been working without a contract since 2020.

 

Alberto M. Carvalho, the current district superintendent, acknowledged “historic inequities” that workers had faced, in a statement on Tuesday.

 

“I understand our employees’ frustration that has been brewing, not just for a couple years but probably for decades,” Mr. Carvalho said.

 

School districts cannot raise revenues as quickly as private-sector businesses might through price increases during an inflationary period. The Los Angeles district relies on funds that are determined at the state level, and, after years of growth, California is projected to face a deficit in the coming fiscal year. The school district also continues to lose students each year, which means it receives less money because funding is based on enrollment.

 

The district has countered with a 23 percent wage increase, spread across several years, and a 3 percent onetime bonus. Mr. Carvalho said that the latest proposal sought to address the union’s needs “while also remaining fiscally responsible and keeping the district in a financially stable position.”

 

At a time when public support for organized labor is high, strikes by teachers and education workers have become increasingly common. Faced with rapid inflation and the prospect of higher pay in the private sector, public employees have been feeling a need for drastic change.

 

“Everybody else gets raises. What about us?” Jovita Padilla, a 40-year-old bus driver, said on Tuesday.

 

In a high-poverty district like Los Angeles Unified, school closures not only cut off class instruction but also crucial school meals. The district offers free breakfast and lunch for all of them, regardless of income, and many children rely on those meals during the school week. With negotiations at a standstill, the district set up supervision sites where working parents could drop off children, as well as locations where families could pick up three days’ worth of breakfasts and lunches.

 

Gabriela Cruz, a district parent who is not related to Diana Cruz, dropped by one of the distribution sites this week and picked up a box of food, which she said was a big help. “My kids need to eat everyday, and the free food is good for us because we spend a lot on groceries,” she said.

 

Ms. Cruz, 44, said working as a receptionist at a real estate office on the first day of the strike was not easy. She had to take her young daughter and son to work.

 

“The truth is that it was difficult to work,” she said.

 

Her family of five depends on her part-time job that pays her $15 an hour. She works 30 hours a week. Her husband works full time in a restaurant and is paid the minimum wage.

 

“Everything is so expensive,” she said.

 

Reporting was contributed by Shawn Hubler from Sacramento, and Corina Knoll and Ana Facio-Krajcer from Los Angeles. Susan C. Beachy contributed research.


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