Bay Area United Against War Newsletter, January 25, 2023





February 24-25 :: International Days of Action in Solidarity with Ukraine

On the anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, activists throughout the world will be mobilizing for protests and education events in solidarity with the Ukrainian people and their struggle to liberate their country. 

The Ukraine Solidarity Network (U.S.) will be organizing actions and events. 

Connect with us!

Solidarity with Ukraine!

Ukraine Solidarity Network Mission Statement 

The Ukraine Solidarity Network (U.S.) reaches out to unions, communities, and individuals from diverse backgrounds to build moral, political, and material support for the people of Ukraine in their resistance to Russia’s criminal invasion and their struggle for an independent, egalitarian, and democratic country. 

The war against Ukraine is a horrible and destructive disaster in the human suffering and economic devastation it has already caused, not only for Ukraine and its people but also in its impact on global hunger and energy supplies, on the world environmental crisis, and on the lives of ordinary Russian people who are sacrificed for Putin’s war. The war also carries the risk of escalation to a direct confrontation among military great powers, with unthinkable possible consequences. 

It is urgent to end this war as soon as possible. This can only be achieved through the success of Ukraine’s resistance to Russia’s invasion. Ukraine is fighting a legitimate war of self-defense, indeed a war for its survival as a nation. Calling for “peace” in the abstract is meaningless in these circumstances. 

The Ukraine Solidarity Network (U.S.) supports Ukraine’s war of resistance, its right to determine the means and objectives of its own struggle—and we support its right to obtain the weapons it needs from any available source. We are united in our support for Ukraine’s people, their military and civilian defense against aggression, and for the reconstruction of the country in the interests of the majority of its population. We stand in opposition to all domination by powerful nations and states, including by the United States and its allies, over smaller ones, and oppressed peoples. 

We uphold the following principles and goals: 

1.     We strive for a world free of global power domination at the expense of smaller nations. We oppose war and authoritarianism no matter which state it comes from and support the right of self-determination and self-defense for any oppressed nation.

2.     We support Ukraine’s victory against the Russian invasion, and its right to reparations to meet the costs of reconstruction after the colossal destruction it is suffering. 

3.     The reconstruction of Ukraine also demands the cancellation of its debts to international financial institutions. Aid to Ukraine must come without strings attached, above all without crushing debt burdens. 

4.     We recognize the suffering that this war imposes on people in Russia, most intensely on the ethnic and religious minority sectors of the Russian Federation which are disproportionately impacted by forced military conscription. We salute the brave Russian antiwar forces speaking out and demonstrating in the face of severe repression, and we are encouraged by the popular resistance to the draft of soldiers to become cannon fodder for Putin’s unjust war of aggression. 

5.     We seek to build connections to progressive organizations and movements in Ukraine and with the labor movement, which represents the biggest part of Ukrainian civil society, and to link Ukrainian civic organizations, marginalized communities and trade unions with counterpart organizations in the United States. We support Ukrainian struggles for ensuring just and fair labor rights for its population, especially during the war, as there are no military reasons to implement laws that threaten the social rights of Ukrainians, including those who are fighting in the front lines.


Click here to read the complete list of USN Endorsements: 



Please sign below to add your endorsement:




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!



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



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)



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




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




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



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.



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




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

Results of Mumia Abu-Jamal's Court Hearing 

December 16, 2022


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

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

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

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




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

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

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

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

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

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

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





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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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



Sign the petition:


If extradited to the United States, Julian Assange, father of two young British children, would face a sentence of 175 years in prison merely for receiving and publishing truthful information that revealed US war crimes.

UK District Judge Vanessa Baraitser has ruled that "it would be oppressive to extradite him to the United States of America".

Amnesty International states, “Were Julian Assange to be extradited or subjected to any other transfer to the USA, Britain would be in breach of its obligations under international law.”

Human Rights Watch says, “The only thing standing between an Assange prosecution and a major threat to global media freedom is Britain. It is urgent that it defend the principles at risk.”

The NUJ has stated that the “US charges against Assange pose a huge threat, one that could criminalise the critical work of investigative journalists & their ability to protect their sources”.

Julian will not survive extradition to the United States.

The UK is required under its international obligations to stop the extradition. Article 4 of the US-UK extradition treaty says: "Extradition shall not be granted if the offense for which extradition is requested is a political offense." 

The decision to either Free Assange or send him to his death is now squarely in the political domain. The UK must not send Julian to the country that conspired to murder him in London.

The United Kingdom can stop the extradition at any time. It must comply with Article 4 of the US-UK Extradition Treaty and Free Julian Assange.



Tell Congress to Help #FreeDanielHale


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

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

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

As the Sam Adams Associates note:

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

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

Happy new year, and thank you for your support!


Jesselyn Radack
Whistleblower & Source Protection Program (WHISPeR)

Twitter: @JesselynRadack



Laws are created to be followed

by the poor.

Laws are made by the rich

to bring some order to exploitation.

The poor are the only law abiders in history.

When the poor make laws

the rich will be no more.


—Roque Dalton Presente!

(May 14, 1935 – Assassinated May 10, 1975)[1]

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







Screenshot of Kevin Cooper's artwork from the teaser.


 “In His Defense” The People vs. Kevin Cooper

A film by Kenneth A. Carlson 

Teaser is now streaming at:



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



“In his Defense,” a documentary on the Kevin Cooper case, is in the works right now, and California filmmaker Kenneth Carlson has released a teaser for it on CarlsonFilms.com


Just over seven months ago, California Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered an independent investigation of Cooper’s death penalty case. At the time, he explained that, “In cases where the government seeks to impose the ultimate punishment of death, I need to be satisfied that all relevant evidence is carefully and fairly examined.”


That investigation is ongoing, with no word from any of the parties involved on its progress.


Cooper has been on death row since 1985 for the murder of four people in San Bernardino County in June 1983. Prosecutors said Cooper, who had escaped from a minimum-security prison and had been hiding out near the scene of the murder, killed Douglas and Peggy Ryen, their 10-year-old daughter, Jessica, and 10-year-old Chris Hughes, a friend who was spending the night at the Ryen’s. The lone survivor of the attack, eight-year-old Josh Ryen, was severely injured but survived.


For over 36 years, Cooper has insisted he is innocent, and there are serious questions about evidence that was missing, tampered with, destroyed, possibly planted, or hidden from the defense. There were multiple murder weapons, raising questions about how one man could use all of them, killing four people and seriously wounding one, in the amount of time the coroner estimated the murders took place.


The teaser alone gives a good overview of the case, and helps explain why so many believe Cooper was wrongfully convicted.



A Plea for the Compassionate Release of 

Leonard Peltier

Video at:


Screen shot from video.

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




Email: contact@whoisleonardpeltier.info

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



The Moment

By Margaret Atwood*


The moment when, after many years 

of hard work and a long voyage 

you stand in the centre of your room, 

house, half-acre, square mile, island, country, 

knowing at last how you got there, 

and say, I own this, 


is the same moment when the trees unloose 

their soft arms from around you, 

the birds take back their language, 

the cliffs fissure and collapse, 

the air moves back from you like a wave 

and you can't breathe. 


No, they whisper. You own nothing. 

You were a visitor, time after time 

climbing the hill, planting the flag, proclaiming. 

We never belonged to you. 

You never found us. 

It was always the other way round.


*Witten by the woman who wrote a novel about Christian fascists taking over the U.S. and enslaving women. Prescient!



Resources for Resisting Federal Repression

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

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

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

Emergency Hotlines

If you are contacted by federal law enforcement you should exercise all of your rights. It is always advisable to speak to an attorney before responding to federal authorities. 

State and Local Hotlines

If you have been contacted by the FBI or other federal law enforcement, in one of the following areas, you may be able to get help or information from one of these local NLG hotlines for: 

National Hotline

If you are located in an area with no hotline, you can call the following number:

Know Your Rights Materials

The NLG maintains a library of basic Know-Your-Rights guides. 

WEBINAR: Federal Repression of Activists & Their Lawyers: Legal & Ethical Strategies to Defend Our Movements: presented by NLG-NYC and NLG National Office

We also recommend the following resources: 

Center for Constitutional Rights

Civil Liberties Defense Center

Grand Jury Resistance Project

Katya Komisaruk

Movement for Black Lives Legal Resources

Tilted Scales Collective






1) Mastermind Behind Amazon Murders of Journalist and Activist Is Caught, Police Say

Brazilian police officials accused an illegal fishing trafficker of ordering an assassination in June that left a British journalist and a Brazilian activist dead deep in the Amazon.

By Jack Nicas and Flávia Milhorance, Jan. 23, 2023

Reporting from Rio de Janeiro.


Police officers after recovering the bodies of Bruno Pereira and Dom Phillips last year in Atalaia do Norte, Brazil.
Police officers after recovering the bodies of Bruno Pereira and Dom Phillips last year in Atalaia do Norte, Brazil. Credit...Victor Moriyama for The New York Times

An illegal-fishing trafficker ordered henchmen to kill an expert on Indigenous tribes in June because he was disrupting the illicit game trade, Brazilian authorities said Monday, leading to an assassination that also left a British journalist dead. The killings attracted international attention to the bloody conflict over the Amazon rainforest.


Brazilian federal police officials said they had gathered evidence that showed Rubén Dario da Silva Villar, a Colombian man widely known as Colombia, had ordered the killing of Bruno Pereira, 41, an activist and former Brazilian government official, because he was helping Indigenous tribes combat illegal fishing and hunting.


As a result, they said, he was hurting Mr. Villar’s business.


When other men went to carry out the orders, pursuing Mr. Pereira in a boat and shooting him with shotguns, they also killed the person he was with: Dom Phillips, 57, a British freelance journalist who had written for The Guardian and The New York Times and was traveling in the Amazon at work on a book.


Mr. Villar is now at least the fourth man arrested in the murders of Mr. Pereira and Mr. Phillips. The federal police have also charged three other men with killing the men or helping to hide their bodies. The police said they were also searching for another man who they believe gave one of the murder weapons to the gunmen and later helped to hide the bodies.


Law enforcement officials said they planned to charge Mr. Villar with the murders, largely ending the investigation into the killings. But Indigenous activists in the region said more work needed to be done.


“Who is financing these people so they can continue their illegal activities?” asked Eliesio Marubo, a lawyer with Univaja, an Indigenous association that, along with Mr. Pereira, helped organize patrols of the region. “The federal police didn’t answer that. We need a deeper investigation.”


The police said that they believed Mr. Villar ordered the killings based on testimony from witnesses and records that showed he supplied the ammunition used in the killing and paid for the lawyers of one of the gunmen.


The Times was unable to contact Mr. Villar or a lawyer representing him. A lawyer who had been working on his behalf said he had left the case.


Mr. Pereira and Mr. Phillips were traveling deep in the Amazon in early June to meet with a group of Indigenous men who were patrolling the Javari Valley, a remote Indigenous reservation the size of Portugal that is home to at least 19 isolated groups.


The Indigenous men had taken up the patrols in an effort to fight rampant illegal fishing and hunting in the region, which had increased after the Brazilian government largely abandoned the area, particularly under the administration of the former far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro.


Mr. Pereira, who was once Brazil’s former top official on isolated tribes, was training the Indigenous men to document crimes using smartphones and drones, and Mr. Phillips was interviewing them for a book he was writing about the way people were trying to save the Amazon.


The Indigenous patrols had been successful at times, including leading authorities to a poacher with 650 pounds of illegal game and nearly 900 pounds of illegal fish. The patrols had upset Mr. Villar, who had run a trafficking operation in the area, a violent, crime-ridden region of the rainforest on the border of Brazil, Colombia and Peru, police said.


The police first arrested Mr. Villar in July for using a false identification when questioned about the murders. He was later released. The police arrested him again in December for breaking the rules of his previous release. He has been in detention since.



2) Alec Baldwin Didn’t Have to Talk to the Police. Neither Do You.

By Farhad Manjoo, Jan. 25, 2023


In a color photograph against a blurred backdrop of a dry scrub landscape, Alec Baldwin, bearded in a baggy blue T shirt, holds a cell phone to his right ear as he holds a surgical mask in his left hand.
Jim Weber/Santa Fe New Mexican, via Associated Press

Video: Don’t Talk to the Police


Shortly after a prop gun Alec Baldwin was holding fired a bullet that killed a cinematographer and wounded a director on the set of the movie “Rust,” in October 2021, he told the police in New Mexico that he’d be willing to do whatever they requested, including sitting for an interview at the station.


In an interrogation room later that afternoon, detectives began by informing Baldwin of his rights: He had the right to remain silent. Anything he said could be used against him in court. He was free to consult with an attorney; if he could not afford an attorney, one would be appointed for him. And he could stop the interrogation at any point he wished.


“My only question is, am I being charged with something?” Baldwin asked.


Not at all, the police said. Reading his rights, one detective told him, was “just a formality.”


And so, without his attorney present, while the police recorded him, Baldwin talked. And talked. And talked. At that point, Baldwin knew only that the film’s director, Joel Souza, and its cinematographer, Halyna Hutchins, had been injured; detectives would inform him at the end of the interrogation that Hutchins had died. Still, for about an hour, Baldwin not only answered detectives’ many questions about the shooting but also offered his own theories about the incident and suggested the next steps the police might pursue in their investigation.


To people unfamiliar with the American criminal justice system, Baldwin’s decision sounds reasonable: Something terrible happened, and he wanted to help. But defense lawyers I talked to said Baldwin’s case should serve as a reminder that if you are involved in a serious incident, it’s best not talk to the police unless you have an attorney present.


Prosecutors in New Mexico announced last week that they planned to charge Baldwin and Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, the film’s armorer, who is responsible for weapons on a movie set, with involuntary manslaughter in Hutchins’s death. They argue that Baldwin had a responsibility to check that the gun he was holding was safe. The prosecutor’s argument has shocked many in the film industry who say that it is the crew’s responsibility, not an actor’s, to ensure that weapons are safe.


In that first police interview, Baldwin told interrogators that Gutierrez-Reed handed him the gun and assured him it was safe: “She said, ‘Do you want to check?’ — and I didn’t want to insult her, we never had a problem. I said, ‘I’m good.’”


Prosecutors have yet to file charges, so it is not clear what evidence they would use against Baldwin or what their legal arguments will be — but given that they’ve said Baldwin violated his legal responsibility to use the gun safely, his admission that he never checked the gun may itself incriminate him.


Also, in a second conversation with the police a week later, Baldwin said it was actually Dave Halls, the film’s first assistant director, who handed him the gun while announcing, “cold gun.” (Halls has since agreed to a plea deal with prosectors.)


“It presents a huge problem if he ever wants to actually testify,” Joshua Ritter, a criminal defense lawyer and former prosecutor in Los Angeles, said of Baldwin’s decision to talk to cops as well as the news media. “If he takes the stand to try to explain his side of things to the jury,” he will need to explain any possible contradictions in these prior statements, Ritter said.


The Fifth Amendment of the Constitution allows Americans to refuse to answer questions from law enforcement. Yet despite the ritualistic incantation on the Miranda warning on every TV police procedural, silence is a right that people can find hard to accept. If you’re convinced of your innocence, aren’t you obligated to help the police solve the matter under investigation? Refusing to talk to the police seems like something people do only when they’ve got something to hide.


I have only a passing interest in Baldwin’s guilt or innocence. Several years ago, though, I came upon the work of James Duane, a professor at Regent Law School in Virginia who has become a Johnny Appleseed of Fifth Amendment advocacy. A video of a lecture Duane gave a decade ago on the importance of the Fifth Amendment, “Don’t Talk to the Police,” has been viewed millions of times on YouTube, and Duane has since given his talk dozens of times around the country. The title of his book “You Have the Right to Remain Innocent” sums up the case for silence, since the presumption of innocence and the burden prosecutors bear to prove guilt even when the accused remains silent are the bedrock of American criminal law.


Duane’s work has turned me into a zealot for the right to remain silent — and when I watched Baldwin blithely sign away his rights, I winced. (His talking to several reporters about the case would be a separate concern.)


Of course, we have no idea how Baldwin’s words will play in his case. But his case hints at the danger that innocent people with far less money and power than Baldwin can bring upon themselves by doing what they think is the “right thing” — talking to the police.


“The average American — even if they’re a highly sophisticated college graduate or a law school student — really doesn’t know an awful lot about the many different ways in which even innocent people can regret for the rest of their lives the biggest mistake of their lives, the decision to waive their Fifth Amendment right and agree to talk to the police,” Duane told me.


Looking beyond the Baldwin case, Duane argues that a key danger is that in trying to defend yourself to the police, you may unwittingly admit some wrongdoing. Navigating around such dangers is made all the more difficult because courts have given the police wide leeway to lie to people being interrogated.


“They will lie to you about what crime they are actually investigating,” Duane writes in his book, “whether they regard you as a suspect, whether they plan to prosecute you, what evidence they have against you, whether your answers may help you, whether your statements are off the record, and whether the other witnesses have agreed to talk to them — even about what those witnesses have or have not said.”


When you talk to the police, it’s unlikely that your whole story will be relayed to the jury during a trial. Duane argues that federal and state rules of evidence make it much easier for prosecutors and the police to present damaging statements from an interrogation than for defense attorneys to present exculpatory information from the same interview. Say you vehemently deny shooting a man, explain that you’ve never owned a gun and don’t know how to shoot, and point out that you weren’t anywhere near the scene of the crime — but also admit, in passing, that, “Yeah, sure, I never liked the guy, but who did?” Even if all of that is true, Duane says, the jury might hear only the worst at trial, with an officer testifying, “He admitted to me that he never liked the guy.”


Duane says that while prosecutors can ask an officer who interviewed a defendant anything they want about the statement, hearsay rules can greatly limit what defense attorneys can elicit from the officer on cross-examination about other portions of the same statement.


Do these scenarios sound far-fetched? The data says otherwise. Since 1989, the Innocence Project has used DNA evidence to help exonerate 375 innocent people falsely convicted of crimes. About 29 percent of the exonerated had been convicted in part because of false confessions. Research has found that most false confessions occur after interrogations lasting a half dozen hours or more and that virtually all involve police officers lying to suspects. Many also involve implicit promises of leniency that may give suspects an impression that talking is their only way out.


The Fifth Amendment is no mere formality. It is among the best defenses against government overreach that Americans enjoy. We should guard it vigorously. Anytime you’re asked to talk to the police about an incident you are involved in, there are just four words you need to say: “I want a lawyer.”



3) Israeli Raid on West Bank City Kills Nine Palestinians, Officials Say

The violence comes as Israel’s new government, the most right-wing administration ever, has signaled an even tougher line against the Palestinians.

By Raja Abdulrahim and Hiba Yazbek, Jan. 26, 2023

“The far-right minister of national security in the new government, Itamar Ben-Gvir, who oversees the police, has called for a relaxation of open fire regulations for soldiers and police confronting Palestinians, including those seen holding stones or firebombs. He has also called for immunity from criminal investigation or prosecution for any members of the security forces acting in combat situations.”

Palestinians carried the bodies of four of those killed in the raid, during a funeral procession in the occupied West Bank city of Jenin on Thursday.
Palestinians carried the bodies of four of those killed in the raid, during a funeral procession in the occupied West Bank city of Jenin on Thursday. Credit...Jaafar Ashtiyeh/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Israeli forces raided the occupied West Bank City of Jenin early Thursday and killed at least nine Palestinians, including a 60-year-old woman, according to the Palestinian health ministry.


A gun battle between the Israeli troops and armed Palestinians broke out during the operation, the Israeli army and a local armed Palestinian group said. The Israeli military said it had responded with live rounds after coming under fire during the raid, which it said was aimed at apprehending members of the Islamic Jihad group who were involved in executing and planning multiple attacks on Israeli soldiers and civilians.


The deaths brought to 29 the number of Palestinians killed in the West Bank so far this year, including at least five youths under 18. That is a particularly high toll for less than one month, even compared to 2022, when at least 166 Palestinians were killed in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, the deadliest year since the United Nations began tracking in 2005.


At least 20 people were injured by gunfire or tear gas inhalation, with four in critical condition, the Palestinian health ministry said. The ministry and the Palestinian Red Crescent accused Israeli troops of storming the Jenin government hospital and firing tear gas inside the pediatric ward, but Israel denied those accusations.


The situation in Jenin “is very critical,” said Dr. Mai al-Kaila, the Palestinian health minister. “We have been informed by the Red Crescent that there are many injuries that are difficult to rescue and evacuate so far. The Israeli occupation impeded the entry of ambulances into the Jenin camp to rescue the wounded.”


The Israeli military said it had killed three people, including two “armed suspects” who were fleeing and added that it was looking into reports of additional casualties. Islamic Jihad is designated a terrorist organization by the United States and Israel.


The violence comes as Israel’s new government, the most right-wing administration ever, has signaled an even tougher line against the Palestinians.


The far-right minister of national security in the new government, Itamar Ben-Gvir, who oversees the police, has called for a relaxation of open fire regulations for soldiers and police confronting Palestinians, including those seen holding stones or firebombs. He has also called for immunity from criminal investigation or prosecution for any members of the security forces acting in combat situations.


But the military leaders responsible for open-fire policies in their ranks and investigations of soldiers’ actions are opposed to such changes and so far none have been implemented.


Palestinian and Israeli human rights groups have said that a loosening of the rules of engagement as well as any guarantees of immunity could lead to even more killings of Palestinians. They say that soldiers in the West Bank enjoy near total impunity already and are rarely held accountable for Palestinian deaths.


Officials from the Palestinian Authority, which administers parts of the West Bank, condemned the raid and killings, and the Palestinian prime minister, Mohammad Shtayyeh, said that Israeli forces continued to kill Palestinians, motivated by a sense of impunity. He called on the United Nations and international human rights groups to urgently intervene to protect Palestinians and prevent further bloodshed.


The Palestinian foreign ministry condemned “the bloody and barbaric incursion committed by the occupation forces”’ in Jenin. “It expresses the arrogance of the occupation and its insistence on escalating the situation in the arena of conflict,” the ministry added.


Hamas, the Islamist militant group that controls Gaza, threatened retaliation for the raid Thursday.


“The occupation will pay the price for the massacre it carried out in Jenin,” the deputy head of Hamas’ political bureau, Saleh al-Arouri, said in a statement.


Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas announced a three-day mourning period across the West Bank.


In 2022, the majority of Palestinians killed were civilians, according to the United Nations and Palestinian human rights groups. The Israeli military, however, has claimed that the vast majority were involved in some form of violence that threatened Israeli lives.


The death toll rose as Israel stepped up military raids in the West Bank in the spring of 2022 after Palestinian assailants carried out a series of attacks, killing 19 Israelis and foreigners, most of them civilians, in the worst spate of killings in years.



4) The Typical American Renter Is Now Rent-Burdened, a Report Says

Moody’s Analytics finds that renters in the U.S. now pay 30 percent of the median income for the average rent.

By Anna Kodé, Published Jan. 25, 2023, Updated Jan. 26, 2023


A bird’s-eye view of the densely packed Manhattan cityscape, with skyscrapers in the distance, silhouetted against a blue sky,
In New York City, residents now pay 68.5 percent of the median income to cover the average rent. Credit...Karsten Moran for The New York Times

The typical American renter is now rent-burdened — meaning that 30 percent of the median U.S. income is required to pay the average rent, according to a new report from Moody’s Analytics.


“This 30 percent is a symbolic threshold, a milestone,” said Thomas LaSalvia, the director of economic research at Moody’s.


Reaching this threshold puts typical American renters — who earn the median income and pay the average rent — where they have never been before, Mr. LaSalvia said. (According to the Pew Research Center, about 36 percent of American households rented, rather than owned, their homes in 2019, the last year that reliable data was available from the Census Bureau.) Moody’s first started tracking the metric in 1999, when the typical rent-to-income ratio was 22.5 percent.


The rent-to-income ratio was calculated by comparing the national median household income, $71,721, with the average monthly rent, $1,794, for 2022. The current 30 percent figure is an increase from 28.5 percent in 2021, and from 25.7 percent in 2020. In 2019, before the pandemic, renters with the median income would be spending 27.2 percent of their income on the average rent.


“The rent-to-income ratio continued to climb up because income growth was not able to catch up with the rent growth,” said Lu Chen, a senior economist at Moody’s Analytics.


The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development has defined rent-burdened families as those who spend more than 30 percent of their household income on housing and “may have difficulty affording necessities such as food, clothing, transportation, and medical care.”


“We’ve been moving in this direction for decades,” said Martha Galvez, the executive director of the Housing Solutions Lab at New York University’s Furman Center. “Since the ’70s, rents have been rising faster than incomes. And among lower-income households, high rent burdens have been the norm for a long time.”


Ms. Chen also noted that the disappearance of “Covid discounts” in many major cities contributed to the burden. “The second half of 2021 is where we saw a lot of the reverse migration happening in many places in the country, with many residents taking advantage of the Covid discounts for rents in the hottest areas, like New York, Jersey, Boston,” she said.


As renters migrated back into populous metropolitan areas, Covid restrictions were loosened and rents started to creep back up.


“The places where you saw the biggest decline in rent are now seeing the biggest increase in rents,” Ms. Chen said.


Residents in some cities are more rent burdened than others. In New York, for example, the rent-to-income ratio in 2022 was 68.5 percent, the Moody’s report found. It was followed by Miami at 41.6 percent, Fort Lauderdale at 36.7 percent and Los Angeles at 35.6 percent.



5) F.D.A. Proposes Limits for Lead in Baby Food

The agency estimated that the guidelines could reduce young children’s dietary exposure to lead by about 25 percent.

By Christina Jewett, Jan. 24, 2023


Rows of baby food on shelves in a Wal-Mart store.

New limits on lead are aimed at foods for babies under 2. They do not address grain-based snacks that have also been found to contain high amounts of metals. Credit...Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group, via Getty Images

The Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday proposed maximum limits for the amount of lead in baby foods like mashed fruits and vegetables and dry cereals, after years of studies revealed that many processed products contained levels known to pose a risk of neurological and developmental impairment.


The agency issued draft guidance, which would not be mandatory for food manufacturers to abide by. The guidelines, if adopted, would allow the agency to take enforcement action against companies that produced foods that exceeded the new limits.


“This is really important progress for babies,” said Scott Faber, vice president of public affairs for the Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit organization that had urged the agency to take action to remove metals from foods. “We were grateful that F.D.A. has and the Biden administration has made reducing toxic metals in baby food a priority.”


The new limits, aimed at foods for children under 2, do not address grain-based snacks that have also been found to contain high levels of heavy metals. And they do not limit other metals, like cadmium, that the agency and many consumer groups have detected in infant foods in previous years.


Jane Houlihan, research director for Healthy Babies Bright Futures, a nonprofit, called the guidelines disappointing. “It doesn’t go far enough to protect babies from neurodevelopmental damage from lead exposures,” she said. “Lead is in almost every baby food we’ve tested, and the action levels that F.D.A. has set will influence almost none of that food.”


She said the limits would address some of the highest levels they had found but more broadly appeared to “codify the status quo.”


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said there is no safe level of lead for children, who more readily absorb the heavy metal. The F.D.A. proposed setting a lead level lower than


10 parts per billion in yogurts, fruits or vegetables and no more than 20 parts per billion in root vegetables and in dry infant cereals.


The limits “would result in significant reductions in exposures to lead from food while ensuring availability of nutritious foods,” according to an F.D.A. news release. The move is part of the agency’s Closer to Zero initiative, which is aimed at reducing the exposure of young children to toxins such as lead, arsenic, cadmium and mercury.


The changes “will result in long-term, meaningful and sustainable reductions in the exposure to this contaminant from foods,” said Dr. Robert M. Califf, the commissioner of the F.D.A. The guideline would allow the agency to identify foods as “adulterated” if they contained levels beyond the limits, and to then seek a recall, seize products or recommend a criminal prosecution.


The agency estimated that the proposed levels could reduce the dietary exposure to lead for some young children by about 25 percent. According to the F.D.A., low levels of lead exposure in children can lead to “learning disabilities, behavior difficulties and lowered I.Q.” as well as immunological and cardiovascular effects.


In 2020, the F.D.A. set limits for inorganic arsenic in rice cereal for infants and in April of last year, it proposed maximum levels for lead in juice.


In comments submitted to the F.D.A. on its broader plan, Gerber wrote in 2021 that reducing toxins was difficult because plants absorbed them from the soil as they grew.


“Actions that result in removing baby foods from the diet, whether intentional or not, do not change exposure if these foods are replaced with other sources of the same fruits, vegetables and grains that are prone to having heavy metals,” the company wrote.


A Gerber spokeswoman said on Tuesday that the company was reviewing the F.D.A.’s proposal, and planned to work with the agency “to advance this important effort to continue to reduce the levels of heavy metals in infant and toddler foods.”


Walmart and Hain Celestial, which produces Earth’s Best Organic foods, did not respond to requests for comment on the proposal. Beech-Nut Nutrition Company said in a statement that it was reviewing the guidance and would work with the F.D.A. on “the establishment of science-based regulatory” limits for “naturally occurring heavy metals.”


Attorneys general from New York, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Michigan and other states had weighed in on the overall plan, urging the F.D.A. to post the results of its tests for multiple metals in baby food on its website.


Lead is ubiquitous in the environment from decades of unregulated use in gasoline for cars, farm machinery, aircraft and paint, said Tracey Woodruff, a scientist at the University of California, San Francisco, who studies exposure to toxins.


She applauded the F.D.A.’s goals, but said a strict limit would be more effective because the voluntary guideline would require monitoring for possible enforcement.


“Corporations are innovative and know how to tweak what they need to do to meet legal standards and make a profit,” she said.


Representative Raja Krishnamoorthi, Democrat of Illinois, has been a leading voice calling for reductions of heavy metals in baby foods. He and other lawmakers issued a report in 2021 showing that baby foods like carrots and sweet potatoes were contaminated with heavy metals.


On Tuesday, Representative Krishnamoorthi said in a statement that he has been pressing the F.D.A. to ensure baby food is safe. He said he remained concerned that the “lead levels announced today are considerably more lenient than those specified in” legislation that he and other lawmakers introduced in March 2021.


Months later, Consumer Reports released tests showing that arsenic remained present in rice cereal meant for babies even after the limit was issued. The group advised parents to favor dry oatmeal as a safer alternative.


Mr. Faber, of the Environmental Working Group, said the new guideline would prompt food companies to encourage suppliers to alter their farming practices to reduce the lead levels in food.


“I think that past history has shown that farmers and food companies are very quickly able to change how they grow and process these ingredients to meet tougher standards,” he said.



6) Why the New Obesity Guidelines for Kids Terrify Me

By Virginia Sole-Smith, Jan. 26, 2023

Ms. Sole-Smith is the author of the forthcoming book “Fat Talk: Parenting in the Age of Diet Culture.”


  • John Provencher

This month, the American Academy of Pediatrics released its first comprehensive guidelines for evaluating and treating children and adolescents with obesity. The paper, co-written by 21 prominent doctors, health researchers and obesity experts, advises health care providers that they may refer children as young as 2 years old to “intensive health behavior and lifestyle treatment” programs if they have a body mass index in the overweight or obese range. For children ages 12 and up with an obese B.M.I., doctors are encouraged to prescribe weight-loss medications and to offer those over age 13 with severe obesity a referral to a bariatric surgery center.


The paper’s authors see this new guidance as a brave leap forward in the fight against childhood obesity, which they frame as a “complex and often persistent disease” requiring early and aggressive treatment.


But the guidelines are rooted in a premise that should have been rejected long ago: that weight loss is the best path to health and happiness.


The academy’s guidelines are the latest sally in the war on obesity that health care providers, public health officials and the general public have waged to shrink our bodies for over 40 years. The approach hasn’t worked; Americans, including kids, are not getting thinner.


Instead, we face an epidemic of anti-fat bias, which results in the stigmatization of fat people in schools, workplaces, doctor’s offices and other public spaces. In a study of almost 14,000 people enrolled in behavioral weight management programs across six countries, researchers found that over half of the participants had experienced weight stigma, with more than two-thirds of those encountering it doing so from doctors.


In dozens of interviews with families I heard about doctors shaming low-income moms for buying dollar store ramen noodles instead of pricier fresh vegetables. I talked to teenagers who were gaining weight while dealing with depression or anxiety and whose doctors told them to cut carbs. Families described doctors who rushed conversations, grabbed bellies or made jokes about kids’ bodies.


The guidelines acknowledge that experiences of “weight stigma, victimization, teasing and bullying” are major challenges faced by kids in larger bodies that contribute to disordered eating and worse mental health outcomes. Some health care providers, they note, are biased against fat patients in ways that compromise the quality of care and contribute to more severe illness and even death.


And yet by framing the new guidelines around the best ways to pursue and achieve weight loss for kids, the academy reinforces that bias. It relies heavily on B.M.I. as an indicator of health status, even though mounting evidence reveals its limits. B.M.I. may be less reliable when used in kids because it doesn’t consider a child’s muscle mass or level of pubertal development, both of which influence body composition.


Significant weight shifts in children can signal an underlying health condition like diabetes or an eating disorder, or food insecurity. (Some kids are also just genetically predisposed to be bigger.) But our weight-based medical model trains doctors to see “normalizing” a child’s B.M.I. as the priority rather than to view that number as one data point to be curious about. That leads providers and patients to focus on weight loss in the hopes thinness will fix everything else. But approaches to childhood health that focus on behavioral changes explicitly for weight control “rarely result in health improvement or sustainable weight loss and are instead associated with disordered eating and greater weight gain,” as a 2020 editorial in JAMA Pediatrics put it.


The American Academy of Pediatrics argues that its recommended “intensive health behavior and lifestyle treatment” program is different from the diets that we’ve long known can raise kids’ risk for eating disorders. A three-year study on almost 2,000 kids published in 1999 by Australian researchers found that teenage girls who dieted “at a severe level” were 18 times more likely to develop eating disorders than those who did not, and that even moderate dieters were at five times greater risk than non-dieting peers. (Subsequent studies have reaffirmed the link between dieting and eating disorders.)


We also know that a vast majority of efforts to deliver durable weight loss through lifestyle changes often fail in all age groups. This may be why the academy has added new tools to doctors’ arsenal, including bariatric surgery and weight-loss drugs. One drug, Wegovy, the brand name for semaglutide, was recently approved by the Food and Drug Administration for ages 12 and up. The pediatrician group says such strategies can help kids who have weight-linked health complications, like Type 2 diabetes and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.


But it’s worth noting that Wegovy and other medications can come with side effects like diarrhea and vomiting, and long-term use of these drugs is not well studied in children. Meanwhile, one study used to support the academy’s guidance on bariatric surgery involved 81 Swedish teenagers; while cardiovascular health and other illnesses improved, 25 percent of the patients required additional surgery to resolve complications from the first procedure or from the rapid weight loss, and 72 percent reported nutritional deficiencies. Other research shows that bariatric surgery is associated with an increased risk for alcoholism and suicide.


What should the obesity guidelines say instead? Stop classifying kids and their health by body size altogether. This would involve a paradigm shift to weight-inclusive approaches, which see weight change as a possible symptom of, or a contributing factor toward, a larger health concern or struggle. These approaches focus providers on addressing that issue rather than managing weight loss. This means looking less at the number on the scale and talking more to families about their health priorities and challenges. Can they add healthy foods rather than restrict calories? Can they find ways to move their bodies that they enjoy? It also means avoiding stigmatizing discussions of weight and prescriptions of weight loss.


One weight-inclusive approach known as Health at Every Size has shown promising results in adults: a 2020 meta-analysis of 10 randomized control studies found that it showed similar efficacy to approaches aimed at weight loss in terms of physical health gains and a greater improvement in eating disorder outcomes. And a 2021 evidence review on the approach for adolescents concluded, “The benefits of HAES interventions on eating behavior and psychological well-being more broadly outweigh the potential risks of weight-focused care.”


We cannot solve anti-fat bias by making fat kids thin. Our current approach only teaches them that trusted adults believe the bullies are right — that a fat body is just a problem to solve. That’s not where the conversation about anyone’s health should begin.



7) New report affirming Death Row inmate Kevin Cooper’s guilt hasn’t put doubts about the case to rest

Bob Egelko, Jan. 22, 2023, Updated: Jan. 23, 2023


In this July 31, 1983, file photo, Kevin Cooper, center, a suspect in connection with the slashing death of four people in Chino, Calif., is escorted to a car for transport to San Bernadino. An independent review into the conviction of Cooper released Jan. 13, 2023, found that evidence of his guilt was “extensive and conclusive.” Associated Press

Kevin Cooper’s death sentence for the 1983 murders of a married couple and two children in San Bernardino County is probably the most contentious capital case in California. And it is likely to remain so, despite the findings of a state-ordered special investigation that Cooper was clearly guilty and had not been framed.


State and federal courts have upheld Cooper’s convictions and death sentence for the fatal stabbings of Doug and Peggy Ryen, their 10-year-old daughter, Jessica Ryen, and 11-year-old house guest, Christopher Hughes, at the Ryens’ home in Chino Hills. Cooper had escaped two days earlier from a nearby prison, where he was serving a sentence for burglary.


But his claims of innocence have drawn wide support, including a 101-page dissenting opinion in 2009 by Judge William Fletcher and four colleagues on the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, who said there was reason to believe officers had “manipulated and planted evidence” against Cooper. Vice President Kamala Harris, when she was a U.S. senator from California, urged Gov.-elect Gavin Newsom in 2018 to order new DNA testing on evidence in the case. Newsom issued that order in February 2019, declared a moratorium on all executions in the state a month later, and, in May 2021, ordered what he described as an independent investigation into Cooper’s case.


The report by the San Francisco law firm Morrison Foerster wound up its 104-page assessment of the evidence by declaring that “the evidence of his guilt is conclusive.” But some of the evidence cited in the report might raise questions about that conclusion.


Cooper and his supporters have argued that the actual killer was Lee Furrow, a paroled murderer who had been in the area. According to the report, two men who had worked alongside Furrow on construction projects in Pennsylvania told California’s independent investigator that they had heard Furrow say in 2018 that “me and my boys, we butchered a whole family.” Furrow’s former girlfriend told the investigator that soon after the killings she saw him wearing a pair of bloodstained coveralls. A sheriff’s deputy questioned Furrow six months later, then took the coveralls and threw them in a dumpster without testing the bloodstains.


The report dismissed the construction workers’ statements as “not reliable,” saying the workers had recently seen a television program that mentioned Furrow as a possible suspect in the killings, and had not reported their conversation to police. While the coveralls “should not have been destroyed,” the clothing of the Ryens’ killer would have been covered with blood, in contrast to the scattered bloodstains described by Furrow’s ex-girlfriend, the law firm said. It also noted that investigators found Cooper’s DNA and fingerprints at the murder site, but no evidence of Furrow’s presence.


Furrow had admitted strangling a 17-year-old girl, Mary Sue Kitts, in 1974 at the orders of Clarence Ray Allen, who was also convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison. Allen ordered further killings in prison, including an unsuccessful attempt to kill Furrow, and was executed in 2006, the most recent convict to be put to death in California. With credit for his testimony against Allen, Furrow was released after serving 4½ years for slaying Kitts. He has denied any involvement in the Ryen deaths.


The report also discounted the first response of the only survivor of the attacks, 8-year-old Josh Ryen, whose parents and sister were killed. Josh, whose throat was slashed, was questioned in the hospital by a social worker when he was unable to speak, but he signaled, by touching letters and numbers on a page, that the attackers had been three white men. Cooper is Black, and Furrow is white. The boy later told a sheriff’s deputy that three Mexican men had been to the house that night. And after seeing a televised photo of Cooper, Josh said, according to a law enforcement officer, “That wasn’t the guy that did it.”


Josh Ryen did not testify at Cooper’s trial in 1985, and said recently he is now convinced of Cooper’s guilt. The investigators’ report said the boy’s conflicting responses in the hospital do not support Cooper’s case because Josh “never stated that he saw or got a good look at the person or persons who committed the crime.”


Cooper also contended there must have been multiple attackers because the victims suffered more than 140 wounds, and Doug and Peggy Ryen were both strong and fit adults who kept weapons in their bedroom. His lawyers presented similar assessments from a retired FBI agent and a forensic pathologist. But the new report said Paul Delhauer, a former Los Angeles County sheriff’s investigator whom the law firm described as an “independent expert,” found that there could have been a single attacker, since the Ryen couple were both attacked in bed after drinking heavily, and the other victims were children.


The report included documents from three more expert witnesses who analyzed evidence from the crime scene, the reliability of eyewitnesses’ statements and the possibility of Furrow’s guilt, and agreed that they did not support Cooper’s claims of innocence. One witness, Alan Keel, had been a crime laboratory analyst for the Oakland and San Francisco police departments. Another, Mark Lilienfield, is a former Los Angeles County sheriff’s detective. The third was a psychologist, Mitchell Eisen, with no apparent law enforcement affiliation.


“It’s disappointing that the investigation appears to have a strong prosecutorial bias,” said Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center in Washington, D.C. “If you are going to be conducting an independent investigation, you don’t have prosecutors investigating prosecutors.”


Another critic told The Chronicle that Delhauer appeared to be typical of the experts consulted by the law firm for the report.


“He was hardly unbiased given that his friends in the San Bernardino Sheriff’s Department were under scrutiny,” said Philip Hansten, professor emeritus of pharmacy at the University of Washington. His recent book, “Death Penalty Bullshit,” has a chapter that concludes Cooper was almost certainly framed for crimes committed by multiple killers.


The report “tried to explain away (or ignore) basically all of the discrepancies, inconsistencies, (legal) violations, and even absurdities in the case against Cooper,” Hansten said.


Cooper’s attorneys, from the law firm of Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, said the study had been neither thorough nor independent, and had failed to question prosecutors in the case or discuss defense claims that prosecutors had withheld and destroyed evidence. The investigators ignored the attorneys’ request to demand records from the prosecutors and the sheriff’s office and refused to speak to a defense DNA expert or let Cooper’s lawyers speak with the investigators’ expert, said Rene Kathawala, a lawyer with the Orrick firm.


“We call on the governor to follow through on his word and obtain a true innocence investigation,” the firm said in a statement.


But that road is definitely uphill. The report, while ordered by Newsom, was issued to the state Board of Parole Hearings, which reviews prisoners’ requests for clemency, such as Cooper’s, and then makes recommendations to the governor. Vicky Waters, a spokesperson for the parole board, said Thursday that the investigation had been “independent and unbiased” and no further review was needed.


“We are confident in the reliability of the investigation, and satisfied that Mr. Cooper’s innocence claims have been thoroughly reviewed,” Waters said. “At this time, the Board of Parole Hearings has not been directed to take further action on this matter and considers this investigation closed and concluded.”


Erin Mellon, a spokesperson for Newsom, said only that the report “finds that evidence of Mr. Cooper’s guilt is ‘extensive and conclusive’” and did not say what action, if any, the governor might take in response.


Newsom could still consider clemency for Cooper on other grounds, such as his claims of racial discrimination and prosecutorial misconduct, which included allegations that prosecutors withheld or destroyed evidence that would have demonstrated his innocence. So far, the governor has not fully defined his role in the case.


He is the elected leader of the state, whose lawyers prosecuted Cooper and defended his conviction and sentence in court. But Newsom also says the death penalty, approved by California’s voters, is racially discriminatory and does not protect the public. He has dismantled Death Row at San Quentin and transferred condemned inmates to other prisons. He has not, however, sought to commute any of California’s 671 death sentences to life in prison, an action that would require approval by a majority of the state Supreme Court for most of the prisoners, including Cooper.


Apart from the clemency process, a new state law, signed by Newsom last year, allows Cooper and other prisoners under death sentences to have their convictions and sentences overturned if they were treated differently because of their race. The law will expand in 2026 to apply to all past felony convictions.


Cooper, now 65, says he isn’t giving up on the governor and his willingness to re-examine the case and the law.


“Gov. Newsom cannot let this stand, because he did not order a pro cop, or pro prosecutor investigation, he ordered an independent investigation,” the inmate said in a letter from San Quentin that supporters received this week. “I will continue to fight not only for my life, and to get out of here, but to end the death penalty as well.”