Bay Area United Against War Newsletter, January 5, 2023


Free Abortion on Demand! No Forced Sterilization!

Counter Demonstration against the Walk for Life:

Saturday, January 21st at 11:00 am

We'll gather at the Philip Burton Federal Courthouse, 450 Golden Gate Avenue to rally, then march to Civic Center where the Walk for Life West Coast will hold their rally.

The National Mobilization for Reproductive Justice is still fighting for bodily autonomy for all, in spite of the overturn of Roe v Wade. The misogynists and racists are emboldened and are working to ban the abortion pill and contraceptives, roll back queer rights and strip protection of Native American and trans children.

Here in San Francisco, Reproductive Justice SF is organizing a rally and counter-protest against the Walk for Life West Coast. And we need you! 

It is only weeks away and we will be rallying for reproductive justice to show everyone that we are a pro-abortion city. We need you to join us for a united action that includes everyone who is deeply concerned about the far right's agenda. We especially need people to support the tasks of organizing this united effort! Contact us at reprojustice.sf@gmail.com with questions and to volunteer.

Spread the word by sharing the flyer linked here, and via social media on Instagram and Facebook .

Join our upcoming planning meetings:

Thursdays: 1/5 and 1/19 at 6:30 pm

Via Zoom: https://bit.ly/reprosfcoalition 

Together we can insist that the right wing will not continue their reign of terror unopposed.


Look for future National Mobilization events on the anniversary of Roe V Wade at https://reprojusticenow.org.


What we call for:

* Restore & expand Roe v. Wade; safe, legal abortion on demand without apology

* Repeal the Hyde Amendment

* Overturn state barriers to reproductive choices

* Stop forced sterilization

* No to caged kids, forced assimilation, & child welfare abuses

* End medical & environmental racism; for universal healthcare

* Defend queer & trans families

* Guarantee medically sound sex education & affordable childcare

* Sexual self-determination for people with disabilities

* Uphold social progress with expanded voting rights & strong unions


#AbortTheCourt            #MyDecisionAlone        #UnjustLawsWillBeBroken



Our mailing address is: 

Reproductive Justice - San Francisco

747 Polk Street

San Francisco, CA 94109



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) As a Researcher, I Study the Health of Palestinians. It’s Time to Pay Attention.

By Yara M. Asi, Dec. 29, 2022

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

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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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



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

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

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

By Pete McKenzie, Dec. 30, 2022


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

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


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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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



3) Making Sense of a Senseless Conflict in Ukraine?

By David Finkel

CounterPunch, December 23, 2022


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Provocation and the War

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Missing voices

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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



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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


‘Free Mumia’. Justice postponed


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


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


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


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


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


Notes from Jesse Shramenko contributed to this article



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

By Mara Altman, Jan. 1, 2023

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


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

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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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



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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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



7) A Heavily Armed Man Caused Panic at a Supermarket. But Did He Break the Law?

In states with permissive gun laws, police and prosecutors have limited tools at their disposal when a heavily armed individual sows fear or panic in public.

By Richard Fausset, Jan. 2, 2023


Guns and rifles on a table

A photo provided by the Atlanta Police Department shows the weapons a man had carried into a Publix grocery store in Atlanta at the time of his arrest on Wednesday.

ATLANTA — Two days after a gunman killed 10 people at a Colorado grocery store, leaving many Americans on high alert, Rico Marley was arrested as he emerged from the bathroom at a Publix supermarket in Atlanta. He was wearing body armor and carrying six loaded weapons — four handguns in his jacket pockets, and in a guitar bag, a semiautomatic rifle and a 12-gauge shotgun.


Moments earlier, an Instacart delivery driver had alerted a store employee after seeing Mr. Marley in the bathroom, along with the AR-15-style rifle, which was propped against a wall. A grand jury indictment later described what had come next: “panic, terror and the evacuation of the Publix.”


Mr. Marley, then 22, was arrested without incident that day in March 2021. His lawyer, Charles Brant, noted that he had not made any threats or fired any shots, and had legally purchased his guns. Mr. Marley did not violate Georgia law, Mr. Brant said; he was “just being a person, doing what he had the right to do.”


Indeed, Mr. Marley’s arrest kicked off a long and as yet unresolved legal odyssey in which the criminal justice system waffled over what it could charge him with and whether to set him free. Clearly, visiting the grocery store with a trove of guns had frightened people. But was it illegal?


The episode, and others like it, speaks to a uniquely American quandary: In states with permissive gun laws, the police and prosecutors have limited tools at their disposal when a heavily armed individual’s mere presence in a public space sows fear or even panic.


The question of how to handle such situations has been raised most often in recent years in the context of political protests, where the open display of weapons has led to concerns about intimidation, the squelching of free speech or worse. But it may become a more frequent subject of debate in the wake of a landmark Supreme Court decision in June, which expanded Americans’ right to arm themselves in public while limiting states’ ability to set their own regulations.


The ruling also affirmed the principle of allowing states and local governments to ban guns in “sensitive places”; as examples, it cited legislative assemblies, polling places and courthouses. But the high court left much open for interpretation. “A wave of litigation is going to confront the courts with questions about what, for example, makes a restriction on guns in schools and government buildings different than in museums or on public transit,” Jacob D. Charles, a professor and gun law expert at Pepperdine Caruso School of Law, wrote in a recent blog post.


Events like the one involving Mr. Marley, while difficult to quantify, are extreme examples of a problem already bedeviling the police and prosecutors, sometimes from the moment an armed person is spotted in public. All but three states allow for the open carry of handguns, long guns or both, and in many there is little the police can do.


Chuck Wexler, the executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum, a bipartisan law enforcement policy group, said police officers sometimes had mere seconds to determine whether a person with a gun “either legally has the right or he’s a madman” — or both.


“For the average cop walking the street in America, it’s a huge dilemma, knowing there have been countless active shooter situations,” Mr. Wexler said.


Prosecutors initially went all in on Mr. Marley’s case, charging him with 11 felonies: five counts of criminal attempt to commit a felony and six counts of possession of a weapon “during commission of or attempt to commit certain felonies.” An arresting officer said in an affidavit that when Mr. Marley had put on his antiballistic armor in the Publix bathroom and placed the handguns, with rounds in the chambers, into his pockets, he had taken a “substantial step of the crime of aggravated assault,” a felony.


In July 2021, Judge Debbie-Ann Rickman of Fulton County Magistrate Court denied Mr. Marley bond, determining that he posed a “significant danger to the community.”


But court records show that the charges were dismissed in February. Mr. Marley was released from jail after 10 months, only to be rebooked in May, this time after being indicted by a grand jury on 10 lesser counts of reckless conduct, a misdemeanor. The indictment says that Mr. Marley was “loading and displaying” his AR-15 in the restroom and that he left it unattended.


He pleaded not guilty to the charges in August and remains in custody. (Mr. Brant, his lawyer, said he had not filed a new bond motion on his client’s behalf because Mr. Marley was homeless and did not have family or friends to stay with.)


John R. Monroe, a defense lawyer and the vice president of a gun-rights group called Georgia Second Amendment, is not involved in Mr. Marley’s case. But from the outside, he said, it seems baseless.


“I mean, all the guy did was be in the store with guns,” he said. “I go into Kroger with a gun, and I don’t expect to be arrested for reckless conduct when I do that. Based on the information from the case, he didn’t do anything that would even remotely constitute reckless conduct. And shame on the state for even prosecuting him for that.”


Taking out the rifle in the men’s room would have most likely violated the law in Illinois, Florida and California, where open carry is banned, Mr. Charles said. But states with more lenient gun laws have struggled with scenarios similar to the one involving Mr. Marley.


In February, a man named Guido Herrera was discovered at the Galleria mall in Houston, a few yards from a youth dance competition, wearing a spiked leather mask and carrying a Bible and an AR-15-style rifle. An off-duty police officer working as a security guard was alerted to his presence and tackled him. Mr. Herrera was found to have more than 120 rounds of ammunition with him, as well as a semiautomatic handgun holstered in his waistband.


He was charged with disorderly conduct, a misdemeanor that under Texas law includes knowingly displaying a firearm in public “in a manner calculated to alarm.” A jury found him guilty, and he was given a six-month jail sentence.


Prosecutors were openly frustrated. “His circumstance kind of fell in the gaps,” Barbara Mousset, a lawyer with the Harris County District Attorney’s office, said at Mr. Herrera’s sentencing, according to The Houston Chronicle. “He took advantage of some technicalities in the law — he had the right to have that firearm and, ultimately, this was the only charge that we could get him on.”


In an interview, Armen Merjanian, a lawyer for Mr. Herrera, called his client “a proud owner of firearms living in Texas,” adding that Mr. Herrera brought the rifle into the mall because he was worried about it being stolen from his car.


Nathan Beedle, the misdemeanor trial bureau chief in the Harris County prosecutor’s office, pointed to the practical challenges of applying the legal standard. “How long does it take to go from ‘in a manner calculated to alarm’ to deadly conduct?” said Mr. Beedle, who helped handle the Herrera case. “A millisecond, right?”


Not all such cases have ended peacefully. In 2015, a woman in Colorado Springs called 911 after seeing a man in her neighborhood with a gun. The dispatcher reportedly explained to her that Colorado was an open-carry state. Within minutes, the man went on a shooting spree, killing three people.


Mr. Brant, the lawyer for Mr. Marley, said his client might suffer from mental illness and was awaiting a formal diagnosis. He said Mr. Marley had attempted suicide during his first, 10-month jail stint.


Mr. Brant also offered an explanation for Mr. Marley’s conduct that day: He had acquired the guns and the body armor, Mr. Brant said, because he had felt threatened by someone in his neighborhood. On the day of his arrest, he had hoped to take his guns to a nearby shooting range but first had to run some errands, which included a stop at the grocery store. (Mr. Marley did not have a car, Mr. Brant said, which is why he was carrying the guns around with him.) While in the Publix men’s room, Mr. Brant said, Mr. Marley had taken out some of the weapons, including the rifle, to clean them after discovering that some guacamole he had bought had caused a mess inside the bag.


Charles Russell, the Instacart driver who came upon Mr. Marley in the men’s room, told police that, at one point, he had heard clicking sounds from a stall that “sounded to him like someone was loading firearms,” according to a police report.


In a recent interview, Mr. Russell, 27, said he had the Colorado massacre on his mind at the time. He recalled thinking, “If I don’t do anything, then I’m afraid of what will happen.”


In a statement to The New York Times, Fani T. Willis, the district attorney in Fulton County, which covers most of Atlanta, said her office had taken a hard look at the case but had not found “provable felonies under Georgia law.”


“Georgia’s General Assembly must examine our statutes governing this type of behavior,” added Ms. Willis, a Democrat, referring to the state’s Republican-controlled legislature. “Respecting the right to bear arms should not require that we tolerate people entering public places with assault rifles and body armor.”


Mr. Brant said he did not believe anything Mr. Marley had done that day amounted to reckless conduct in a state that has been vigorously pushing the boundaries of the freedom to carry weapons in public. He alluded to a law signed by Gov. Brian Kemp, a Republican, more than a year after Mr. Marley’s arrest that allows people to carry concealed handguns without a license.


“What is the definition of reckless conduct?” Mr. Brant said. “Carrying weapons? In a state that requires no permit? And no license? I mean, help me understand, what’s the reckless conduct?”



8) Paralyzed by Gun Violence, They Seek Solace From Other Survivors

Gunfire in America has left a growing number of people with long-term disabilities. In one city, a support group that includes people who spent time in the same trauma ward offers a way to cope.

“A 2020 study from public health researchers at the University of Pennsylvania and Columbia University estimated that there are more than 300 firearms injuries on average in America every day, leaving twice as many survivors as fatalities.”

By Neelam Bohra, Jan. 3, 2023


Porche Powell, wearing white clothing and glasses sits, in a yellow wheelchair under a wooden pavilion in a park.

Porche Powell was a certified nursing assistant for 12 years until she was shot. Now, she is an unofficial leader of a support group for people with spinal-cord injuries in Rochester, N.Y. Credit...Lauren Petracca for The New York Times

ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Three years after a former boyfriend kicked down her door, fired a gun at her nine times and left her paralyzed, Porche Powell steeled herself for a virtual visit to the hospital ward where she had spent long weeks in recovery.


Joining a video call, she saw a man lying in the same bed in the same room where she had been told that she would never walk again. His tearful description of being gunned down on a Rochester street jolted her back to her own struggles in Room 5-1200 — the physical medicine and rehabilitation unit that its occupants refer to as “the 512.”


When she left that unit, at Strong Memorial Hospital, a month after the shooting, Ms. Powell, 28, spent days sitting in empty rooms in her home with nothing to do. For almost a year, she couldn’t talk about her new life without crying, until a nurse connected her with a recently formed support group for gun violence survivors and others with spinal cord injuries.


The man in the hospital bed on the video call, Rickey Forcer Jr., would be its newest member. And, as Ms. Powell and other members welcomed him over the summer, they didn’t hold back. “It’s going to get worse when you first get home and have to adjust, before it gets better,” she told him, relating her own experience.


Though the death toll from mass shootings and gun violence across the United States tends to grab the most attention, in recent years those events have left a far greater number of people struggling with physical injuries, including lifelong paralysis.


Government agencies, including the Justice Department and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, do not track the number of Americans disabled by gun violence, and various sources provide divergent numbers when trying to identify the number of injured survivors. A 2020 study from public health researchers at the University of Pennsylvania and Columbia University estimated that there are more than 300 firearms injuries on average in America every day, leaving twice as many survivors as fatalities.


Although the severity of those injuries can vary greatly, advocates and medical professionals say the number of survivors with long-term disabilities is large and growing, in the thousands every year.


“We measure death, but we don’t always measure those who can’t be recorded,” said Emily Miller, a spokeswoman for the gun control advocacy group Everytown for Gun Safety.


Over the past decade, as the number of disabled survivors has grown, so have support networks like the one run by the Rochester Spinal Association, allowing victims and their families to lean on a community that understands the grief and pain of a life altered in a hail of gunfire.


“It feels like a forgotten sector of people,” said DeAndra Yates-Dycus, a mother from Indianapolis who started a support group and resource network after her son had been shot and paralyzed by a stray bullet during a children’s birthday party.


In Chicago, which has one of the highest rates of concentrated gun violence in the country, a chapter of Healing Hurt People assists a range of disabled survivors, including those who use wheelchairs and those with colostomy bags. “Society does not value their lives in the ways that they should,” said Andy Wheeler, one of the group’s coordinators, “and it’s horrible.”


Part of the reason they are often overlooked, Mr. Wheeler said, is that so many disabled survivors are young Black men — a group that society, and its support systems, often neglects. Shooting injury rates are highest among Black Americans, according to Everytown.


“A lot of Black men accept they’ll be shot at some point, and they’ll either die or survive it,” said Mike Patterson, one of the Rochester group’s unofficial founders, who was shot 21 years ago in Philadelphia and uses a wheelchair. “No one realizes there’s this third option — paralyzation — that can change your life forever.”


The rising tide of gun violence in Rochester, a city with an industrial past and newly swelling population, led Mayor Malik Evans to declare a state of emergency in July after a string of shootings, including the one that disabled Mr. Forcer. It has also continued to bring people to the attention of “the 512” survivors who are among the core of the new support group.


Since the fall, the Rochester network has begun accepting members from other states through the efforts of Chris Hilderbrant, the director of the Rochester Spinal Association, who has raised awareness of the group via social media and word of mouth.


For Ms. Powell, a certified nursing assistant for 12 years until she was shot, the group has given her a new way to care for others — and herself. “I realized sitting in a room, depressed all day, was not going to change my situation,” she said. “It wasn’t going to make me magically walk. I might as well just live life, see what I can do, find a new normal.”


Now, she has become one of the group’s leaders, offering insights and advice, as she did after Mr. Forcer introduced himself on the video call, describing through tears how he had survived a torn lung, three broken ribs and a severed spine after being shot during a dispute over selling marijuana.


“I’ve lived a whole 30 years being able to walk and run, play basketball with my son, box, drive every day,” Mr. Forcer said, “and now I’ve got to learn all that over again?”


He talked about how he had felt as he was lying on the ground, bleeding from the mouth and gasping for breath. “That’s how I was, too,” Ms. Powell responded. “The bullet had punctured my lungs, and I just couldn’t breathe.”


Just a few weeks later, Ms. Powell and many other group members gathered in a park on Lake Ontario for a rare treat: meeting in person.


They spread sandwiches and homemade brownies across picnic tables as their children and spouses joined them, enjoying a local band playing classic rock on the other side of the park. Ms. Powell’s 13-year-old daughter was there, chattering with a friend.


Ms. Powell recalled how her daughter had been by her side throughout the journey, even for the parts she had not wanted her to witness. That was part of what gave her motivation to become more active with the support group, she said.


“I was crying plenty days and plenty nights. I woke up every morning wishing that I could walk,” she said in that first meeting with Mr. Forcer. “But I try now. I’m able to do stuff for my kids. I cook for my kids. I clean. You could do anything a person walking can do. We just got to figure out a way to do it.”


As night fell on the picnic, the group went down to the beach, using a mat recently rolled out over the sand for wheelchair users, which led all the way to the water. It felt good, Ms. Powell said, to be together.


“The group,” she declared, “has been my therapy.”



9) Why Saving Kids Is

Bad Business in America

Video by Alexander Stockton and Lucy King


Screenshot from video.

It’s happening again. Hospital I.C.U.s are swamped with patients suffering from severe respiratory illnesses. Overworked doctors and nurses are scrambling to save lives. Another surge of infections, another national health crisis.


But this time it’s not just Covid-19. It’s respiratory syncytial virus and other viruses, too. And the patients now include many young children.


As the Opinion video above argues, this crisis is not simply the result of a sharp rise in case numbers. The wave of respiratory illnesses in recent months has revealed a health care industry ill equipped to care for critically ill children.


Profit-driven management has eroded pediatric health care in America. Health care providers make more money treating adults than they do children. As a result, the number of hospitals offering pediatric care has decreased dramatically over the past two decades.


So when the number of R.S.V. cases skyrocketed in late 2022, the American health care system wasn’t prepared. Hospitals were overwhelmed, and families struggled to find appropriate care. And once again, the nation’s health care workers have shouldered much of the burden, going to extraordinary lengths to care for society’s most vulnerable.



10) Workers Are Losing in the Inflation Battle

By Peter Coy, Jan. 4, 2023

Opinion Writer

“The cause of inflation can be found in the class conflict between capitalists and workers.”


A line drawing of a series of hands holding a dollar bill that appear to fade into the background.
Illustration by The New York Times; image by CSA Images

Memo to staff: We highly value your work for us. However, we are not going to give you raises this year that are big enough to catch you up with inflation. We’re just doing what the Federal Reserve wants us to do.


That’s not a real memo, of course, but it fits the facts. Most workers get a raise once a year, typically in March or April. This spring would be employers’ chance to give pay increases large enough to restore their workers’ purchasing power, which has been eroded by unexpectedly high inflation. But it appears they aren’t going to do that.


The Bureau of Labor Statistics is likely to report next week that consumer prices in the 12 months through December rose about 7.1 percent, according to Action Economics, a consulting firm in Boulder, Colo. Yet the average increase in the compensation budgets of medium-size and large U.S. employers for 2023 is 4.3 percent, according to a November survey by Mercer, a consulting firm that’s part of Marsh McLennan.


Employers rarely cut workers’ nominal pay — the dollar number that appears on their checks — because they realize it’s bad for morale. But as the Mercer survey goes to show, employers have fewer qualms about cutting workers’ real pay, which is the nominal number adjusted for inflation. Real pay is what matters, because it determines what you can and can’t afford to buy.


The decline in inflation-adjusted pay appears to be “the most severe faced by employed workers over the past 25 years,” Robert Rich and Joseph Tracy, economists at the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, wrote in October, in an article with a former Dallas Fed intern, Mason Krohn. That’s somewhat surprising given the low unemployment rate, which would seem to give workers the leverage they need to demand higher pay. But high inflation came on so quickly that workers fell behind, and they haven’t caught up. Plus, a smaller share of workers belong to unions that bargain on their behalf.


Oh, as for the part of the imaginary memo about the Fed? Jerome Powell, the Fed chair, made clear at a Dec. 14 news conference that the Fed doesn’t want wage increases to catch up with prices. “It’s not that we don’t want wage increases. We want strong wage increases. We just want them to be at a level that’s consistent with 2 percent inflation,” he told reporters.


Inflation hawks such as Powell appear to believe that if wages did go up a lot this year — say 7 percent — employers would pay for them with another round of big price increases, which would trigger another round of demands for higher wages and so on ad infinitum. That would be bad. It’s true, as Powell repeatedly says, that low and stable inflation is a prerequisite for steady economic growth that leaves workers better off in the long run.


Unfortunately, in the short run, in trying to prevent a wage-price spiral from starting, the Fed is slowing the economy in a way that is likely to lock in employers’ advantage over employees.


Corporations have used high inflation as an opportunity to push through highly profitable price increases, and now workers are being deprived of the opportunity to even things out. “Inflation is fundamentally the outcome of the distributional conflict, between firms, workers, and taxpayers,” Olivier Blanchard, a professor emeritus at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, wrote in a weekend tweet cited Tuesday by my Opinion colleague Paul Krugman.


On Twitter, Blanchard sounds a lot like Michal Kalecki, a Polish economist, who in 1943 wrote an influential article for Political Quarterly, “Political Aspects of Full Employment.” Kalecki was also channeled in an article published by the Federal Reserve Board in May by two Fed economists, David Ratner and Jae Sim — representing themselves, not the institution — who cited the “conflict theory” of inflation as follows: “The cause of inflation can be found in the class conflict between capitalists and workers.”


Economists tend to attribute the end of high inflation in the early 1980s to the increase in the federal funds rate to as high as 19 percent during Paul Volcker’s chairmanship of the Fed in 1980 and 1981, but President Reagan’s firing of more than 11,000 air traffic controllers in August 1981, which weakened organized labor, may have been a factor as well, Ratner and Sim wrote. (Since they happened around the same time, it’s hard to tell.)


According to conflict theory, wage-price spirals occur when capital and labor are evenly matched, like a pair of heavyweights in a 10-round boxing match. Spirals don’t develop when the capitalists get a first-round knockout, which appears to be the present case. What’s worse for workers is that the referee — i.e., the Federal Reserve — is making it harder for them by pushing up unemployment and thus reducing their bargaining power. “I honestly think that a guy like Jerome Powell is embarrassed by this, but he won’t tell you,” Mario Seccareccia, a professor of economics at the University of Ottawa, told me.


Is there a better way to heal the economy than jacking up interest rates until the economy cracks and workers lose their jobs? Seccareccia mentions “incomes policy,” an old idea that involves government-mediated coordination between business and labor to restrain both prices and wages. Blanchard, a former chief economist of the International Monetary Fund, mentioned the same notion in his weekend tweets, as did Krugman. A Fed-induced slowdown, Blanchard wrote, is “a highly inefficient way to deal with distributional conflicts.” He added, “One can/should dream of a negotiation between workers, firms, and the state, in which the outcome is achieved without triggering inflation and requiring a painful slowdown.”


Incomes policy can get messy if the government meddles too forcefully or clumsily in the workings of the labor market. But the status quo ain’t great, either — especially for those of us who are staring at a pay “raise” this year that isn’t a raise at all.



11) Call for Solidarity Actions with Antiwar Activists in Russia
By Ilya Budraitskis

CounterPunch, January 5, 2023


Video of Russian police arresting antiwar protesters March 6, 2022 (Screenshot)

This is a call for solidarity with Russian anti-war activists by Ilya Budraitskis on behalf of The Russian Socialist Movement.

For over a decade, Russian antifascists have commemorated January 19 as their day of solidarity. This is the date when in 2009, in the center of Moscow, the human rights and leftist activist Stanislav Markelov and the journalist and anarchist Anastasia Baburova were gunned down by neo-Nazis.

The murder of Markelov and Baburova became the culmination of the ultra-right terror of the 2000s, which killed hundreds of migrants and dozens of anti-fascists. For many years, while it was still possible, Russian activists held antifascist demonstrations and rallies on January 19 under the slogan “To remember is to fight!”

Today, when the Putin regime has invaded Ukraine and unleashed unprecedented repression against its own citizens who oppose the war, the date of January 19 takes on a new meaning. Back then the danger was posed by neo-Nazi groups, often acting with the connivance of the authorities.

Today, the ideology and practice of right-wing radicals have become the ideology and practice of the Russian regime itself, which is rapidly turning fascist over the course of its invasion of Ukraine.

Vladimir Putin is waging war not only against the Ukrainian people, but also against the Russian civil society resisting aggression. The brutal repressions hit, among other things, the left-wing movement: socialists, anarchists, feminists, labor unionists.

Before the New Year, the most famous left–wing politician in Russia, the democratic socialist Mikhail Lobanov, was arrested and beaten. The platform “Nomination” he created united the antiwar opposition in the municipal elections in Moscow in September 2022.

Kirill Ukraintsev, the leader of the Courier labor union and a well-known left-wing video blogger, has been in custody since April. The reason for the arrest were the protests and strikes the couriers organized as they sought to improve their working conditions.

A feminist, artist, and anti-war activist Alexandra Skochilenko, who distributed antiwar symbols, faces a long prison term.

Six Anarchists—Kirill Brik, Deniz Aydin, Yuri Neznamov, Nikita Oleinik, Roman Paklin, Daniil Chertykov—were arrested in the so-called “Tyumen case.” They were brutally tortured, seeking confessions in the preparation of sabotage.

Daria Polyudova, an activist of the Left Resistance group, was recently sentenced to nine (!) years in prison for “calls to extremism.” Leftist journalist Igor Kuznetsov has been in prison for a year now, accused of “extremism” for his anti-war and anti-Putin views.

This is a far from exhaustive list of Russian leftists recently imprisoned or persecuted for their beliefs. As Russian activists forced to leave Russia for political reasons, we ask our foreign comrades and all those who care to support the antifascist action on January 19 under the slogans:

·      No to Putin’s war, fascism, and dictatorship!

·      Freedom to all Russian political prisoners!

·      Solidarity with Russian antifascists!

·      To remember is to fight!

We ask you to send us information about any solidarity actions during the week of January 19-24—pickets, open meetings, online discussions, and even personal photos with posters—by e-mail at: rsdzoom@proton.me.

Ilya Budraitskis writes regularly on politics, art, film and philosophy for e-flux journal, openDemocracy, LeftEast, Colta.ru and other outlets, and teaches at the Moscow School of Social and Economic Sciences and the Institute of Contemporary Art Moscow. The Russian edition of his essay collection Dissidents Among Dissidents (Verso) was awarded the prestigious Andrei Bely prize in 2017.



12) Military Investigation Reveals How the U.S. Botched a Drone Strike in Kabul

Documents obtained through a lawsuit reveal how biases led to the deadly August 2021 blunder, and that officials made misleading statements concealing their assessment of civilian casualties.

By Azmat Khan, Jan. 6, 2023


A group looks at a destroyed and burned out vehicle next to a wall.

Relatives and neighbors at the site of a U.S. drone strike that killed 10 civilians in August 2021. Credit...Jim Huylebroek for The New York Times

WASHINGTON — In the chaotic final days of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan in August 2021, U.S. military analysts observed a white Toyota Corolla stop at what they believed was an Islamic State compound.


The Americans were already on edge. Three days earlier, a suicide bomber had killed scores of Afghans and 13 U.S. troops at a main gate of the Kabul airport. Now, officials had intelligence that there would be another attack there, and that it would involve a white Corolla.


They tracked the car around Kabul for the next several hours. After it pulled into a gated courtyard near the airport, they authorized a drone strike. Hours later, U.S. officials announced they had successfully thwarted an attack.


As reports of civilian deaths surfaced later that day, they issued statements saying they had “no indications” but would assess the claims and were investigating whether a secondary explosion may have killed civilians.


But portions of a U.S. Central Command investigation obtained by The New York Times show that military analysts reported within minutes of the strike that civilians may have been killed, and within three hours had assessed that at least three children were killed.


The documents also provide detailed examples of how assumptions and biases led to the deadly blunder.


Military analysts wrongly concluded, for example, that a package loaded into the car contained explosives because of its “careful handling and size,” and that the driver’s “erratic route” was evidence that he was trying to evade surveillance.


The investigation was completed a week and a half after the strike and was never released, but The New York Times has obtained 66 partially redacted pages of it through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against Central Command.


Central Command declined to provide additional comment beyond statements it had previously made about the strike. The Pentagon previously acknowledged that the strike was a “tragic mistake” that killed 10 civilians, and told The Times that a new action plan intended to protect civilians drew on lessons learned from the incident.


Among those killed was Zemari Ahmadi, a longtime aid worker and the driver of the car.


Responding to a description of the document released to The Times, Hina Shamsi, an American Civil Liberties Union lawyer representing families of victims, said the investigation “makes clear that military personnel saw what they wanted to see and not reality, which was an Afghan aid worker going about his daily life.”


The Attack


On Aug. 29, 2021, an American MQ-9 Reaper drone shot a Hellfire missile at a white Toyota Corolla in a neighborhood near the Kabul airport.


Within 20 minutes, multiple military officials and members of the strike team learned that analysts had seen possible civilian casualties in video feeds, according to their sworn statements for the investigation.


Two to three hours after the attack, analysts who had reviewed the footage frame by frame assessed that three children had been killed. An officer then shared that information with two top commanders in Afghanistan, Maj. Gen. Christopher Donahue, the ground force commander, and Rear Adm. Peter G. Vasely.


In sworn statements, six of nine witnesses described learning immediately after the strike that civilians were in the area and may have been killed.


Later that day, Central Command said in a statement that officials were “assessing the possibilities of civilian casualties” but had “no indications at this time.”


An update several hours later noted that powerful subsequent explosions may have caused civilian casualties but did not mention that analysts had already assessed three children were killed.


Three days later, Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters that the strike was “righteous” and had killed an ISIS facilitator as well as “others,” but who they were, “we don’t know. We’ll try to sort through all of that.”


Over the next several weeks, Pentagon officials continued to say that an ISIS target was killed in the strike, even as evidence mounted to the contrary.


On Sept. 10, a Times investigation based on video evidence and interviews with more than a dozen of Mr. Ahmadi’s co-workers and family members in Kabul found no evidence that explosives were present in the vehicle.


Mr. Ahmadi, who worked as an electrical engineer for a California-based aid group, had spent the day picking up his employer’s laptop, taking colleagues to and from work and loading canisters of water into his trunk to bring home to his family.


Officials insisted that their target had visited an ISIS “safe house,” but The Times found that the building was actually the home of Mr. Ahmadi’s boss, whose laptop he was picking up.


A week after the Times investigation was published, military officials acknowledged that 10 civilians had been killed and that Mr. Ahmadi posed no threat and had no connection to ISIS.


Tracking a White Toyota


A subsequent review led by the Air Force inspector general, Lt. Gen. Sami D. Said, remains classified. But the general acknowledged that confirmation bias — a tendency to look for, analyze or remember information in a way that supports an existing belief — was an important factor in how Mr. Ahmadi became a target.


The documents obtained by The Times offer specific examples of how confirmation bias led to errors, including the military’s conclusion that the car it was looking for was the one Mr. Ahmadi was driving.


According to the documents, U.S. intelligence reports on Aug. 29 indicated that an Islamic State affiliate known as ISIS-K was planning an imminent attack on the airport that could involve suicide bombers, “rockets on timers” in the back of a vehicle, and a white Toyota Corolla.


Surveillance aircraft began tracking the white Corolla that Mr. Ahmadi was driving after it stopped at an “established ISIS-K compound.” Drones followed the car to “a second building,” where they observed Mr. Ahmadi as he “carefully loaded” a “package” into the trunk. Analysts assessed the package to be explosives “based on the careful handling and size of the material.”


Over the next several hours, analysts watched as the car made stops and dropped off “adult males,” some of whom were carrying “bags or other box-shaped objects.” At one point, an analyst described how the car was “gingerly loaded with a box carried by five adult males.”


The investigation notes the car’s other movements that day, including that it entered a mall parking garage, that “bags” and “jugs” were unloaded from the trunk, and that it stopped at a Taliban checkpoint.


Analysts said the car followed an “erratic route” that was “consistent with ISIS-K directives to avoid close circuit cameras and pre-attack posture historically demonstrated by the group.”


By the time the car pulled into an open-air garage at a house enclosed by “high walls” about one mile from the airport, military officials were ready to authorize the strike.


A man who was seen opening and closing the gate for the car was also assessed to be a part of the threat. “I personally believed this to be a likely staging location and the moving personnel to likely be a part of the overall attack plot,” one official recounted to investigators. “That was my perception, and it was largely based on both someone immediately shutting the gate behind the vehicle and someone running in the courtyard.”


At this point, new intelligence indicated the airport attack would be delayed until the following day, according to one of the investigation’s interviewees, but military personnel were concerned that they could lose the target.


Thinking that the walls would limit the blast radius from reaching pedestrians on the street, the strike team launched a Hellfire missile at the vehicle. Shortly after impact, witnesses said they saw large secondary explosions, which helped confirm investigators’ belief that the vehicle contained explosives.


But the documents present a less definitive understanding of the source of the secondary explosion. “Conflicting opinions from experts regarding the secondary explosion makes it inconclusive regarding the source of the flame seen after the strike,” according to the report’s findings, which recommended further investigation.


Footage of the minutes after the strike obtained by The Times shows a fireball from the blast, which expands several seconds later. On Sept. 17, after additional review, military officials said the explosion was probably a propane or gas tank.


The investigation refers to an additional surveillance drone not under military control that was also tracking the vehicle but does not specify what it observed. The Times confirmed that the drone was operated by the C.I.A. and observed children, possibly in the car, moments before impact, as CNN had reported.


The military investigation includes recommendations for better coordination, but the documents do not mention that the C.I.A. drone observed children before impact.


“When confirmation bias was so deadly in this case, you have to ask how many other people targeted by the military over the years were also unjustly killed,” Ms. Shamsi said.


The investigation noted that a rocket attack at the airport did occur the next day, about 200 meters from the supposed “ISIS compound” where Mr. Ahmadi first stopped — the event that triggered the initial surveillance. Times journalists identified the car from which the rockets were launched as a white Toyota.


A year later, in August 2022, the Pentagon announced a plan for preventing civilian deaths in U.S. military operations that includes imposing a new system to reduce the risk of confirmation bias and misidentifying targets.


The Pentagon is still developing the policy, which incorporates training on mitigating cognitive bias and creates “civilian harm assessment cells.” It will also give the U.S. military more ways to respond to victims, in addition to condolence payments to survivors and family members of those harmed.


None of Mr. Ahmadi’s surviving relatives have received monetary assistance from the U.S. government as a result of the strike.


One of Mr. Ahmadi’s brothers, Emal Ahmadi, whose toddler Malika was also killed in the strike, arrived in the United States last week.


“I thought the U.S. government would welcome us, meet with us,” he said. “We are waiting for them.”


Christoph Koettl and Eric Schmitt contributed reporting.