Bay Area United Against War Newsletter, February 19, 2023


  Benefit for Defenders of Weelaunee Forest and Against Cop City

Tuesday Feb 21, 2023

Medicine for Nightmares Bookstore

3036 24th Street

San Francisco, CA

5:30-7:30 P.M. Sharp

(Space is accessible)



Jail Killer Cops, Shut Down the POA!

Mothers on the March have been protesting police brutality most Fridays for many years. Join us this Friday to denounce the cruelty and crimes of Zionist Israel.

Join the Mothers on the March!


Friday, February 24, 2023

1:00 P.M.- 2:00 P.M.

Israeli Consulate

456 Montgomery, San Francisco





John Beadle (Screenshot)


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

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

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

Connect with us!

Solidarity with Ukraine!

Ukraine Solidarity Network Mission Statement 

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

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

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

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

We uphold the following principles and goals: 

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

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

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

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

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


Click here to read the complete list of USN Endorsements: 



Please sign below to add your endorsement:




Spring Action Week:  April 15 - 22, 2023
Holloman AFB, Southern New Mexico

Co-sponsored by CODEPINK & Ban Killer Drones

Mark your calendars & Join Us! 

Come for all or part of the week!





Dear friends and supporters of Kevin Cooper, 

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

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

More analysis and information will follow soon.

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

Mr. Kevin Cooper

C-65304. 4-EB-82

San Quentin State Prison

San Quentin, CA 94974



January 14, 2023


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


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


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


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

Anything But Justice for Black People

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In Struggle and Solidarity

From Death Row at San Quentin Prison,

Kevin Cooper


Call California Governor Newsom:

1-(916) 445-2841

Press 1 for English or 2 for Spanish, 

press 6 to speak with a representative and

wait for someone to answer 

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



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


SIGN THE PETITION: bit.ly/freeruchell




Call CA Governor Newsom:

CALL (916) 445-2841

Press 1 for English or 2 for Spanish, 

press 6 to speak with a representative and

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


Call Governor Newsom's office and use this script: 


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


Write a one-page letter to Gov Gavin Newsom:

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


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


YOUR US MAIL LETTER can be sent to:

Governor Gavin Newsom

1303 10th Street, Suite 1173

Sacramento, CA 95814


Email Governor Newsom




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


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

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


Write to District Attorney Gascon

District Attorney George Gascon

211 West Temple Street, Suite 1200

Los Angeles, CA 90012


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


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

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

·      Endorse our coalition at:

·      www.freeruchellmagee.org/endorse!

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



Ruchell Magee

CMF - A92051 - T-123

P.O. Box 2000

Vacaville, CA 95696


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



of Detroit Shakur Squad


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



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

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


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



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


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


Sign on here:



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



Thanks for your consideration.





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

By Peter "Comrade Pitt" Mukuria

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Comrade Pitt 

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

Minister of Labor ~RIBPP 


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.



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.



February 6, 2023 

Statement from Leonard Peltier

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In the Spirit of Crazy Horse.


Leonard Peltier

—Liberation, February 6, 2023



Write to:

Leonard Peltier 89637-132

USP Coleman 1  

P.O. Box 1033

Coleman, FL 33521

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

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


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

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1) In Ohio Town Where Train Derailed, Anxiety and Distrust Are Running Deep

Nearly two weeks after a train carrying toxic chemicals derailed in East Palestine, Ohio, confusing messages from government officials have frayed locals’ trust.

By Campbell Robertson and Emily Cochrane, Feb. 15, 2023


White sandbags run across a foamy creek.

Efforts to mitigate the chemical runoff from the derailment are ongoing in Sulphur Run. Credit...Brian Kaiser for The New York Times

A large black smoke plume rises into the sky over houses and above a residential street.

A controlled detonation of a portion of the derailed Norfolk Southern trains last Monday. Credit...Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

EAST PALESTINE, Ohio — All around the once-thriving industrial town in the quiet hills of eastern Ohio, there were signs this week of business as usual. Schools were in session, restaurants were serving lunch and trains were again barreling along the tracks that cross Market Street.


But all around, too, were signs that nothing was normal at all. People sniffed the water coming out of their taps, checked rashes in the mirror and gazed down into creeks at the green-white shoals of fish and frogs floating belly up. The smell lingered, reminding some of a tire fire, others of burning plastic, mixed with model airplane glue or nail polish remover.


Nearly two weeks after a Norfolk Southern freight train derailed in East Palestine, and a controlled burn of toxic chemicals it was carrying forced hundreds of residents to evacuate the area for days, the normal for many here was dread.


“It’s always kind of been a comforting sound,” Traci Mascher, who is raising three of her grandchildren in the town, said of the wail of the trains as they rattled through. “And now it’s a horrifying sound.”


As dusk fell on Tuesday, she and her husband, Greg, took their granddaughters to a park so they could sit on a bench and think. Other families were sending their children back to school this week, but the Maschers’ girls had broken out in rashes in recent days, and they wondered what dangers to their health might linger throughout the town. Neighbors were returning to their houses, but they had seen firsthand the monstrous plume over the rooftops and had not spent a night at home since.


The Maschers had been in East Palestine for three generations, and Mr. Mascher, 61, now spoke of it like a foreign land. “I’m lost,” he said. “Totally lost.”


Perhaps the most frightening thing for the town’s roughly 4,700 residents is how much remains unknown, and whether dangers that may be addressed in the short term will pose a threat years down the line. Experts have warned that understanding the causes and consequences could require a more comprehensive investigation than what has taken place so far.


Confusing and seemingly shifting messages from government and railroad officials have frayed the local trust, which was already thin in a town battered by decades of mill and plant closures. Rumors and suspicions about the incident are swirling on Facebook and TikTok accounts all over the country; around town, they are also being traded among neighbors in backyards and through the open windows of pickup trucks.


The tension rose on Wednesday evening in the East Palestine High School gym, where the town had scheduled an “informational open house.”


Hours before the meeting, Norfolk Southern announced it would not attend, with a spokesman saying that “we have become increasingly concerned about the growing physical threat to our employees and members of the community around this event stemming from the increasing likelihood of the participation of outside parties.” The company did not provide any additional details on the nature or origin of the threats.


Residents, frustrated with a lack of answers, pushed local officials to take their questions anyway, as they pressed for more assurance that their water and homes were safe and demanded to know how this could be prevented and what would be done to take care of the town.


At a news conference on Tuesday, state officials recommended that people in the area use bottled water, particularly if they rely on a private well. A day later, the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency said it was “confident that the municipal water is safe to drink” after a series of tests did not show contaminants, but encouraged those with private wells to test their water.


Part of the train and its cargo of hazardous chemicals initially ran off the tracks on the night of Feb. 3, leaving a fiery, frightening jumble of about 50 cars. Parts of East Palestine were forced to evacuate within three days of the derailment, when state officials agreed to the company’s request to intentionally burn some of the chemicals to defuse the threat of an explosion that could have sent shrapnel and toxic fumes flying. Chemicals on board included vinyl chloride, a colorless, flammable gas that can cause headaches and dizziness after being inhaled and potentially, after sustained exposure, a rare form of liver cancer.


As of Wednesday, the Environmental Protection Agency had screened 459 homes and had not detected either vinyl chloride or hydrogen chloride, an agency spokesperson said. But days earlier, people in the town had learned that the train had been carrying more toxic chemicals than they had been told previously, convincing many that more was being kept from them.


Michael S. Regan, the head of the E.P.A., was set to travel to East Palestine on Thursday, the agency said, to meet with state and local officials, along with residents.


“I just don’t trust anybody,” said Mike Routh, 28, standing in the parking lot of the Abundant Life Fellowship church in New Waterford, a town five miles east of East Palestine. The church had been temporarily turned into an assistance center, and Norfolk Southern was giving out $1,000 payments to “cover costs related to the evacuation.” Mr. Routh, who installs cellphone towers for a living, was debating whether to take the company’s money and worried that doing so would limit his options for compensation later on if he were to join a lawsuit.


The company was going to buy its way out, he predicted, pointing out, as many here do, that its trains began running through the town again minutes after the evacuation order was lifted. “It’s almost a war of corporate greed against small-town America,” Mr. Routh said. He and his wife were talking about moving away for good. “This town was starting to come back and now it’s going to just die.”


A spokesman said on Wednesday that Norfolk Southern had set aside funds for residents in the area, including more than $1.5 million to help cover the cost of evacuations, and that it was providing air purifiers to some households and had expanded the eligibility for assistance.


“We will be judged by our actions,” Alan Shaw, the Norfolk Southern president and chief executive, said in a statement. “We are cleaning up the site in an environmentally responsible way, reimbursing residents affected by the derailment, and working with members of the community to identify what is needed to help East Palestine recover and thrive.”


But this did little to assuage the town’s anger and frustration.


“I just don’t want to be diagnosed with cancer or something 10, 15 years down the line because of their mistake,” said Therese Vigliotti, 47, who was outdoors the night that the chemicals were burned and said that her tongue still feels scalded and that she had seen blood in her stool for two days.


Most of the anger so far has been directed at Norfolk Southern, with elected officials publicly taking the rail company to task. Gov. Mike DeWine of Ohio, a Republican, called it “absurd” that Norfolk Southern had not been required to notify local officials about the train’s contents before it came through because of its classification, calling for congressional action and dangling the threat of legal action should the company fail to pay for the cleanup.


In a public letter, Gov. Josh Shapiro of Pennsylvania, a Democrat, denounced Norfolk Southern for its “poor handling” of the derailment, charging that “prioritizing an accelerated and arbitrary timeline to reopen the rail line injected unnecessary risk and created confusion in the process.”


On Wednesday, four senators — Sherrod Brown and J.D. Vance of Ohio, and Bob Casey and John Fetterman of Pennsylvania — wrote a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency requesting more information about the agency’s plans and ability to respond to the derailment, as well as any information about long-term effects on the environment and how the rail company would be held accountable.


An initial federal report detailing the investigation into the derailment is expected to be released in two weeks. The National Transportation Safety Board confirmed that surveillance footage from a nearby home showed a wheel bearing overheating just before the train derailed, and that officials would examine the wheel, the cars and documentation from the train as part of its investigation.


Some railroad union officials and residents pointed to surveillance footage posted online from a business in Salem, Ohio, 20 miles from the derailment, which seemed to show flames coming from underneath the train, raising further questions about when it became clear that the train was at risk of derailing. The footage was first reported by The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.


When the train did ultimately crash in East Palestine, said Chasity Smith, “it was like the gates of hell opened up.” Since then Ms. Smith, 40, has found herself sniffing her tap water and the well water that her horses drink from. Ever since the derailment, she has watched trucks and workers rumble through the village, questioning why they were in such a hurry to rebuild the railroad tracks when she and her neighbors were still unsure if it was safe to drink the water or even breathe the air.


The way that the response from Norfolk Southern and government officials has unfolded has deepened a conviction among many here that they have been treated as expendable victims of powerful forces. In downtown East Palestine on Tuesday afternoon, a man stood on a street corner holding a sign that read: “Profits over people/ They Poisoned the Community.”


The next morning, a family — a father, mother and 3-year-old girl — stood on another corner holding posters suggesting the E.P.A. had orchestrated the controlled burn of the chemicals just to get trains running again, declaring that “The EPA nuked a town to open the Railroad #OhioChernobyl.”


“I think the company has the money to have the big say in what’s going on,” said the mother, who gave her name only as Melinda and said the government only acts at the bidding of corporate power.


Driving south out of town past the Dairy Queen, every house relies on well water, said Russell Murphy, 50, who lives on a farm a few miles outside East Palestine. No one in the area can drink the water right now, and it’s not clear when they will be able to again. Mr. Murphy and his wife are wondering if they will have to leave, and who would buy their home if they did.


Leslie Run burbles along the bottom of the hill where the Murphys live. Mr. Murphy stood on a bridge on Tuesday, pointing out one dead fish after another; state officials have already counted 3,500 dead fish across waterways near the derailment.


“The water scares me,” Mr. Murphy said. Officials can test and say it is safe for now, he said, but he does not believe that the chemicals released in the controlled burn simply disappear.


“What’s it going to be two years from now?” he said. “Are we going to start seeing cancer cells pop up? Or three weeks from now? I don’t know how long that stuff takes to get where it’s got to get to.”


Noting that people were making stickers that said, “I Survived the Toxic Train Wreck 2/2/23,” Mr. Murphy gave a morbid laugh. It was way too early, he said, to be so sure.



2) Higher Bills Are Leading Americans to Delay Medical Care

Inflation and pressing household expenses are forcing some people to postpone health needs, an emerging trend that has health experts worried that conditions may only worsen.

By Reed Abelson, Feb. 16, 2023


The Swanson family is sitting on the floor around a colorful looking board game.

Megan and Brett Swanson playing a board game with their three children, Jojo, Gracie and Cam. Credit...Melanie Metz for The New York Times

Megan Swanson has warily watched the erosion of her family’s savings as inflation chips away at a reserve for emergencies.


She often postpones any regular doctor’s appointments, including her yearly dermatology appointment, even though annual skin checks are typically recommended for residents of sunny Florida, where she lives in Naples with her husband and their three children.


“Each month we are seeing our costs go up, but not our bank account,” she said.


Ms. Swanson, 37, is a part-time student and has not worked since she was laid off during the pandemic when the local Nordstrom store closed in 2020. Her husband, Brett, 37, is employed as the director of wellness at a retirement community.


“I put the priority on the kids,” she said.


Last March, the Swansons had to come up with $8,000 to cover their share of hospital bills after their baby daughter was hospitalized with a febrile seizure. “What if something happens again in the future, and how will we afford it?” she asked.


Rising out-of-pocket costs are weighing heavily on the scale, pushing aside tests or procedures when troublesome symptoms emerge. And these days, the grocery list (and even the price of eggs) feel more pressing to many families. While some people avoided seeking medical care during the worst of the pandemic, worried about the risk of infection or unable to get an appointment because hospitals and doctors were overwhelmed, now many are finding that inflation and the uncertain economy have thrown up another barrier.


“We are starting to see some individuals who are putting off some care, especially preventive care, due to the costs,” said Dr. Tochi Iroku-Malize, the president of the American Academy of Family Physicians and the chair of family medicine for Northwell Health in New York. Choosing between going to the doctor or paying for rent and food, “the health issue is no longer the priority,” she said.


The inability to afford medical tests and treatment, a perennial concern in the United States, began emerging as a much more striking issue last year. Nearly four of 10 Americans said they had put off care in 2022 because of cost, the highest number since Gallup started asking people about delaying care more than 20 years ago. The percentage reporting they or a family member delayed health care because of cost rose to 38 percent from 26 percent in 2021.


With the prices of prescription drugs, hospital stays and other treatments expected to increase significantly this year and next, some doctors expect families to have an even harder time affording medical care. A recent report from the Commonwealth Fund found that 29 percent of people with employer-based coverage were underinsured, because they had such high out-of-pocket costs even with insurance. The coming roll back of health coverage under the state-federal Medicaid program will very likely lead many people to become uninsured.


About one-fourth of respondents in Gallup’s poll said they put off care last year for what they considered a “serious” condition. When Margaret Bell, 71, found that her cancer had returned four years ago, she hesitated to resume her chemotherapy because she could not afford it, and higher prices have made it even harder. She would regularly skip appointments near her home in Lancaster, S.C.


“It is impacting patients’ access to care,” Ms. Bell’s oncologist, Dr. Kashyap B. Patel, said. As the chief executive of Carolina Blood and Cancer Care Associates in Rock Hill, S.C., he recently set up a nonprofit group, No One Left Alone, to help cancer patients like Ms. Bell and to connect them with local charities. The organization is covering the cost of her treatments, and Dr. Patel has assured her that his office will find the money for her visits.


On a limited budget, “it’s been very difficult for me,” Ms. Bell said. Having her family over for dinner can be a strain because of high grocery bills, and she is faced with deciding which of her medical needs is the most urgent. She has postponed receiving a pacemaker.


A new federal report suggests fewer Americans’ health bills are being sent to collection, but medical debt still accounts for more than half of all kinds of collection debt, exceeding unpaid credit card or cellphone bills. It remains a serious issue: about a fifth of Californians said they had medical debt of at least $5,000, according to another recent survey. A little over half of those asked said they had skipped some kind of care in the last year, with half of those reporting their condition got worse as a result.


“This is about trade-offs that people have to think about that are really hard,” said Dr. Jay Bhatt, the executive director of the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions, a research unit of the consulting firm. He also sees patients at the Family Christian Health Center outside of Chicago. In a survey by Deloitte last year, 28 percent of respondents said they were less able to afford care than in the previous year.


Some of the clinic’s patients are losing their jobs and insurance, he said. “We’ve seen this before, and we are going to see it in big numbers now,” Dr. Bhatt said.


In Hammond, Ind., Tameaka Smith and her husband, Stevenson Lloyd, are coping with tighter finances and trying to save where they can. She is disabled and covered through Medicare, the federal insurance program, while her husband, who works at an auto parts factory, has private insurance through his employer.


Still, they are skimping a bit on medicines they need. Her husband takes his thyroid medication every other day, and she sometimes uses her father’s asthma medicine. “We’re self-medicating, trying to stretch it out and doctor ourselves,” Ms. Smith said.


With two children, their family has not recovered from the financial strains of the pandemic. “It’s hard catching up when you’re so pushed back,” Ms. Smith said.


Her husband also weighs the merits of going to the doctor, knowing that if he doesn’t have to pay right away during the visit, “then next month we’re getting a big bill,” she said.


Any turbulence in the economy has historically resulted in the loss of medical care for an increasing number of people, either because they no longer have health insurance or because they cannot afford their share of medical bills. During the Great Recession, millions of Americans lost their health coverage, and many people are predicting a similar wave in the coming months. Millions of people could lose Medicaid coverage as states begin the process of dropping individuals from the program now that states will no longer have to keep people enrolled and extra federal funds are going to disappear.


The cost of treatments is also likely to rise next year as hospitals, many of whom reported losses in 2022, will raise their rates, said Sean Duffy, the co-founder and chief executive of Omada Health, a company in San Francisco that provides virtual care and coaching to people with chronic health conditions like diabetes. The company’s employees were already starting to see an increase in patients wrestling with how to pay for medicine and healthy food.


“2024 is the reckoning, unfortunately,” Mr. Duffy said.


In addition to medical bills, patients often cannot afford to take off work for a doctor’s visit, let alone find the funds to cover child care or the transportation needed to get there. A colonoscopy to determine why a patient may be bleeding could result in missing a day’s work and a medical bill equal to a week’s work, said Dr. Rajeev Jain, a gastroenterologist at Texas Digestive Disease Consultants. “We’re seeing an uptick in patients canceling for those reasons,” he said.


“You have a finite number of dollars to spend on your family,” Dr. Jain said. When you’re worried about having enough food or stable housing, “at that moment, you’re not thinking of preventing something five years from now.”


In 2021, a fifth of Americans either delayed or went without medical care because of the pandemic because of a lack of available appointments and fear of infection, according to a recent analysis by KFF, a nonprofit research group. Only 5 percent cited cost alone.


The catch-up in visits and procedures by people who are now able to see the doctor and the increased number of people seeking care caused by the winter season’s respiratory illnesses could mask any recent declines in seeking out medical care.


“It’s possible that this is the calm before the storm, especially since a lot of people are going to lose Medicaid coverage,” Cynthia Cox, a vice president at K.F.F., said.



3) Memphis Officers Plead Not Guilty in Tyre Nichols Beating

A judge urged patience in the upcoming criminal process. Five police officers face charges of second-degree murder in the case.

By Jessica Jaglois and Joseph Goldstein, Feb. 17, 2023


Outside a red brick home, teddy bears, balloons and flowers lay in a pile next to a white cross that reads “Tyre Nichols R.I.P. 2023.”

A makeshift memorial for Tyre Nichols at the corner where he was fatally beaten by Memphis police officers. Credit...Brad J. Vest for The New York Times

MEMPHIS — The five officers accused of killing Tyre Nichols, a 29-year-old Black man pulled over for a traffic stop, pleaded not guilty on Friday to second-degree murder charges a month after police and traffic cameras captured the officers punching, kicking and striking Mr. Nichols with a baton.


The five men — Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Emmitt Martin III, Desmond Mills Jr. and Justin Smith — also face additional charges, including official misconduct, official oppression and kidnapping. They were formally arraigned on Friday in a brief court proceeding, less than a month after top police officials fired the officers.


The officers had been part of a specialized street crime unit called Scorpion, which was formed in late 2021 with a mandate to help bring down rising crime rates. Driving muscle cars and wearing modified police uniforms and plainclothes, officers from the unit pulled over countless motorists for low-level violations, which regularly led to drug and gun seizures. The city’s mayor credited the unit with contributing to a drop in the city’s homicide rate. The unit was disbanded following Mr. Nichols’s death.


On Jan. 7, Mr. Nichols was stopped by Scorpion officers and pulled from his car in what the police initially characterized as a stop for reckless driving. He ran and when officers caught up to him, they began to beat him, according to video footage from the scene. At one point two officers held him up so a third could keep delivering baton blows. Mr. Nichols died in a hospital three days later.


During a brief court hearing on Friday morning, the officers quickly filed in and out of the courtroom as their lawyers entered not guilty pleas on their behalf. They wore masks, and their expressions were largely hidden.


“This case may take some time,” James Jones Jr., the criminal court judge, said as he urged the defendants “to be patient.”


In a hallway outside the courtroom after the hearing, a prosecutor in the case conveyed a sense of urgency.


“Memphis, and the whole world, needs to see that what’s right is done in this case, and it needs to happen sooner rather than later,” Paul Hagerman, an assistant district attorney, said.


A defense lawyer for one of the officers told reporters that the officers were entitled to a fair trial. “It must be based on the facts and the law, and not the raw emotions our country is currently experiencing,” said Blake Ballin, who represents Mr. Mills.


A sixth officer has been fired, and others are facing internal departmental discipline as well.


Reporting was contributed by Emily Cochrane.



4) Federal Officials Send Help After Ohio Derailment, but Residents’ Frustrations Persist

A visit to East Palestine from the head of the E.P.A. and a White House pledge to lend more support were met with skepticism in the community.

By Sophie Wodzak, Emily Cochrane and Lisa Friedman, Feb. 16, 2023


An aerial view of a wreckage site that contains derailed train cars.

Crews working last week on cleaning up portions of the wreckage from the derailment of a Norfolk Southern freight train in East Palestine, Ohio. Credit...Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

EAST PALESTINE, Ohio — ​​The head of the Environmental Protection Agency traveled to this small community on Thursday with promises of aid but faced skepticism from residents outraged over what they saw as a delayed response to the toxic spill unleashed by the recent train derailment.


The visit came within hours of an emotional and heated town meeting, where residents pleaded with town officials to address their safety concerns after Norfolk Southern, the railroad company, declined to send representatives.


Some residents said they did not think the visit by the E.P.A. chief, Michael Regan, would do enough. It has been nearly two weeks since the derailment. Since then, fears of an explosion prompted a controlled release of chemicals onboard and a multiday evacuation, with increasingly vocal complaints about headaches, noticeable odors and dead fish appearing in local creeks.


“It’s about time they showed up,” John Cozza, the owner of a pizza restaurant in East Palestine, said. “But I don’t know what they’re going to do about it.”


Mr. Cozza said he had been forced to keep his shop closed last weekend in part because of more widespread concerns about the ability to safely return to town. Neighbors and families have been telling younger people to leave town permanently, he said, and to seek a safer place to build a life.


“I’m worried about these kids,” Mr. Cozza, 69, said, adding, “We don’t know what’s going to happen.”


Mr. Regan’s visit came on the same day that the White House, responding to a request from Gov. Mike DeWine of Ohio for emergency assistance, announced that teams from the Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would head to East Palestine. The community of about 5,000 residents is at the center of anxiety in the wake of the derailment this month of the Norfolk Southern freight train that was transporting hazardous chemicals across the Ohio-Pennsylvania border.


Mr. Regan, who faced questions on Thursday about whether he would feel comfortable living in the region and allowing his children to drink the water, repeatedly sought to assure the public that the testing conducted by the state was trustworthy. Flanked by Ohio lawmakers and officials from his agency, he stressed that the tests were accurate and had yet to show serious risks of contaminations.


“We’re testing for everything that was on that train, so we feel comfortable that we are casting a net wide enough to present a picture that will protect the community,” he said, speaking at a news conference after visiting Sulphur Run, a creek affected by the release of chemicals. There, an official in a Hazmat suit carried equipment, while several loud machines nearby pumped water.


“As a father, I trust the science. I trust the methodology the state is using,” Mr. Regan said at the news conference.


He also said there were no immediate plans to designate the area a Superfund site, the name for a highly contaminated area designated for federal cleanup. Mr. Regan indicated that Norfolk Southern would be expected to pay for addressing contamination and other issues, and he recommended that families with wells use bottled water as a precaution until tests showed them safe to use.


Mr. Regan also said that the air quality monitoring in screened homes “has not detected any levels of health concerns in the community that are attributable to the train derailment,” including any dangerous levels of hydrogen chloride or vinyl chloride. Five of the rail cars were carrying vinyl chloride, which is used to make plastic. Hydrogen chloride is one of several toxic chemicals that are released by burning vinyl chloride.


Mr. Regan said the agency is continuing to do round-the-clock air monitoring and has begun testing groundwater, joining other officials in seeking to address concerns about the long-term implications of the derailment and possible exposure to the chemicals.


For all of the repeated assurances from federal, state and local officials, the prevailing fear among people who live here is whether there are toxic consequences for those who stay.


“No community should have to go through something like this, but you need to know that you’re not alone,” said Representative Bill Johnson, Republican of Ohio. Senator Sherrod Brown, Democrat of Ohio, vowed to work with Mr. Johnson and other lawmakers to scrutinize any legislation that could address what happened, including the fact that the train was classified in a way that did not require local officials to be notified about its hazardous cargo.


Mr. Brown has also pushed for Mr. DeWine to request a disaster declaration for East Palestine and the affected region, a necessary step to unlock certain federal aid and supplement the separate request for doctors and other medical assistance.


Mr. DeWine’s office, however, said that the Federal Emergency Management Agency found that the area did not qualify for such a declaration, in part because the railroad company was paying for some residential expenses and because of the lack of damage to personal property after the derailment. (A FEMA spokeswoman noted that the agency was in touch with state and federal agencies in the region.)


Senator J.D. Vance, Republican of Ohio, speaking in East Palestine after making a separate visit to the region on Thursday, said that “we need to get the resources necessary for this community to rebuild.”


Mr. Vance added that he was unsatisfied with not just the railroad company’s response but with that of federal health agencies and the lack of clarity about testing and the level of contamination that makes water hazardous.


“It’s up to us to give people the confidence to come back to their homes,” he said. “And if people don’t feel that, that’s on us, not on them.”


Maria Michalos, an E.P.A. spokeswoman, said the agency has had a presence on the ground in East Palestine since 2 a.m. on Feb. 4, the morning after the crash, to help state and local authorities with response efforts. By the end of that day, the E.P.A. had 17 coordinators and contractors performing air quality monitoring and testing, brought in a mobile analytical laboratory to test samples and deployed a special aircraft to assess emissions releases.


Residents have largely placed the blame on Norfolk Southern and fumed Wednesday evening when representatives for the company backed out of the meeting with local officials. Others have questioned why there was an apparent rush to repair the tracks and ensure that the trains could continue running through the town.


Six members of Congress who represent the region — including Mr. Brown, Mr. Vance and Mr. Johnson — wrote to the railroad company. They demanded details about the company’s plans for financially supporting the region’s farmers and residents and for cleaning up any contaminated soils and water sources, along with details about the railroad’s operations.


The company has repeatedly pledged to not only provide financial aid but to also continue work cleaning up the area. Alan H. Shaw, the president and chief executive, wrote an open letter promising that “we are here and will stay here for as long as it takes to ensure your safety and to help East Palestine recover and thrive.”


But some residents and officials have also demanded more of the federal government, singling out Pete Buttigieg, the transportation secretary, and the E.P.A. in particular, for not moving more quickly to address their concerns and the extent of the damage.


Noting that the derailment site was 20 miles from his state’s border, Senator Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, a Democrat, called it “unacceptable that it took nearly two weeks for a senior administration official to show up.” He demanded a “complete picture of the damage and a comprehensive plan to ensure the community is supported in the weeks, months and years to come.”


Asked about Mr. Regan’s visit, Mark Milnes, 61, declared it “too little, too late.”


“I’m worried about washing my dishes with the tap water, and the laundry and taking a bath,” he later added. “I’m concerned about the children.”


Michael D. Shear and Ida Lieszkovszky contributed reporting.



5) We have the best chance in a very long time to actually achieve Mumia's freedom: Angela Davis writes to Irvin Jim

Peoples Dispatch - February 16, 2023


(From February 16 to March 16, trade unions and people’s movements across the world are organizing a campaign to demand the release of US political prisoner, militant and journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal, who has been in prison for over 41 years. The global action comes at a time when his defense is mounting a fresh attempt to ensure his release as the evidence against him has been time and again exposed as flawed. Ahead of this action, noted political activist and academic Angela Davis, who was a political prisoner herself, wrote a letter to Irvin Jim, General Secretary of National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa, about the bonds of solidarity that hold together this global campaign. We bring you excerpts from the letter)

Dear Comrade Jim,


As I write you today on behalf of Mumia Abu-Jamal, I remember the powerful letter you wrote in 2016 to Governor Wolf of Pennsylvania, when you emphasized similarities between the South African apartheid government’s treatment of its political prisoners and the conditions of prisoners in Pennsylvania. You wrote, “The refusal of healthcare reminds us of the conditions we were put in under Apartheid prisons where sick detainees were allowed to die in very deplorable lonely conditions in solitary as part of the punishment for their role in the struggle.”


Your compelling statement was instrumental in the prison authority’s decision to finally give Mumia life-saving medication. This action quite literally saved his life. Today we need to take advantage of the fact that we have the best chance in a very long time to actually achieve his freedom. On December 16th of last year, a new judge ruled that the prosecution must turn over its entire file – up to 200 boxes of materials – to the defense. Previously, new exculpatory evidence was discovered among materials in six boxes of files, never seen by the defense and mysteriously “found” on premises occupied by the District Attorney. This discovery of exculpatory evidence decades after the initial arrest provides further confirmation of our contention that Mumia is innocent of the charges for which he is being held. One piece of evidence is a hand-written note by the star witness for the prosecution demanding money in exchange for his (obviously perjured) testimony.


As was the case under apartheid, there is no justice for those willing to call for an end to racism and capitalism–what we now refer to as racial capitalism. There is no justice for those who militantly defend the working class. The judge in Mumia’s case is expected to issue her ruling sometime between February 16 and March 16. That is why we are asking trade unions around the world to organize protests in front of U.S. Embassies demanding Mumia’s freedom. ILWU Local 10 will be shutting down the Ports of Oakland and San Francisco that day to demand Mumia’s immediate release. Teachers in the San Francisco Bay Area are organizing teaching days on his case during that time. This will occur half-way through our observation of Black History Month in the US,


As I write this letter, we are celebrating the life of Dr. Martin Luther King on the national holiday marking his birthday and I am remembering that a few months before he was assassinated, Dr. King addressed the membership of ILWU Local 10 and was given an honorary membership in the union.


I am proud to say that over a half-century later, in the aftermath of the George Floyd police murder and the massive protest by longshore workers, I too, was made an honorary member by the union.


In accepting that great honor, I also thanked the ILWU Local 10 for organizing one of the first rallies in 1972, to “Free Angela Davis.” As a consequence of the many protests organized around the world we were able to prevail over the forces of racial capitalism. Huey Newton, the leader of the Black Panther Party was also eventually freed thanks to similar mobilizations.


Both the ILWU Local 10 and NUMSA have stood together many times in defense of justice–whether in South Africa, the US, or elsewhere in the world.


Yours in solidarity


Angela Davis



6) You Can’t Save Democracy in a Jewish State

By Peter Beinart, Feb. 19, 2023

Mr. Beinart is a journalist and commentator who writes frequently about Israel. 

“It’s not a movement for equal rights. It’s a movement to preserve the political system that existed before Mr. Netanyahu’s right-wing coalition took power, which was not, for Palestinians, a genuine liberal democracy in the first place. It’s a movement to save liberal democracy for Jews.”

A man holding a Palestinian flag at a protest at night in Tel Aviv, Israel, last month.
A protester holding a Palestinian flag in Tel Aviv at a demonstration against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s far-right government. Credit...Tsafrir Abayov/Associated Press

The warnings come every day: Israeli democracy is in danger.


Since Benjamin Netanyahu’s new government announced plans to undermine the independence of Israel’s Supreme Court, hundreds of thousands of Israelis have demonstrated in the streets. All of Israel’s living former attorneys general, in a joint statement, have warned that Mr. Netanyahu’s proposal imperils efforts to “preserve Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.” Liberal American Jewish leaders are cheering on the protests. Earlier this month, Alan Solow, the former head of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, said he and other American Jewish notables “share the concerns of tens of thousands of Israelis determined to protect their democracy.” In a public declaration, Mr. Solow and 168 other influential American Jews warned that “the new government’s direction mirrors anti-democratic trends that we see arising elsewhere.”


On the surface, the battle between Mr. Netanyahu and his critics does indeed look familiar. In recent years, from Brazil to Hungary to India to the United States, anti-government protesters have accused authoritarian-minded populists of threatening liberal democracy. But look closer at Israel’s political drama and you notice something striking: The people most threatened by Mr. Netanyahu’s authoritarianism aren’t part of the movement against it.


The demonstrations include very few Palestinians. In fact, Palestinian politicians have criticized them for having, in the words of former Knesset member Sami Abu Shehadeh, “nothing to do with the main problem in the region — justice and equality for all the people living here”


The reason is that the movement against Mr. Netanyahu is not like the pro-democracy opposition movements in Turkey, India or Brazil — or the movement against Trumpism in the United States. It’s not a movement for equal rights. It’s a movement to preserve the political system that existed before Mr. Netanyahu’s right-wing coalition took power, which was not, for Palestinians, a genuine liberal democracy in the first place. It’s a movement to save liberal democracy for Jews.


The principle that Mr. Netanyahu’s liberal Zionist critics say he threatens — a Jewish and democratic state — is in reality a contradiction. Democracy means government by the people. Jewish statehood means government by Jews. In a country where Jews comprise only half of the people between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, the second imperative devours the first.


To understand just how illiberal the liberal Zionism championed by Mr. Netanyahu’s leading opponents is, consider the actions of Yair Lapid, his predecessor as prime minister. Last month, Mr. Lapid penned a nearly 2,000-word essay in which he wrote, “If this Netanyahu government does not fall, Israel will cease to be a liberal democracy.” It didn’t include the word “Palestinian.”


That becomes less surprising when you realize that as foreign minister, in 2021, Mr. Lapid implored the Knesset to renew a law that denies Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza Strip who are married to Palestinian citizens the right to live with their spouses inside Israel proper. The law is blatantly discriminatory; Jews can immigrate to Israel and gain immediate citizenship whether they have relatives in the country or not. And far from denying the legislation’s discriminatory nature, Mr. Lapid celebrated it. The law, he explained in a tweet in July 2021, “is one of the tools meant to ensure the Jewish majority in the State of Israel.”


When Tucker Carlson and Viktor Orban employ this kind of logic — when they promote policies designed to ensure that the percentage of white Christians in their countries doesn’t dip too low — American Jewish liberals recognize it as anathema to the principle of equal citizenship on which liberal democracy rests. Yet many now see Mr. Lapid as liberal democracy’s champion because he opposes Mr. Netanyahu’s judicial reforms.


Another major figure in the anti-Netanyahu movement is former defense minister Benny Gantz, who last month urged Israelis “to protest for safeguarding Israeli democracy.” But as defense minister in 2021, Mr. Gantz designated six leading Palestinian human rights groups as terrorist organizations in what the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem called “an act characteristic of totalitarian regimes.” Israeli troops later forced their way into the organization’s offices, seized documents, and then welded shut the doors. Do those sound like the actions of someone interested in “safeguarding” democracy?


The problem runs deeper than just these politicians. When American Jewish leaders like Mr. Solow express solidarity with those “Israelis determined to protect their democracy,” they are not only deluding themselves about Mr. Netanyahu’s leading opponents. They are deluding themselves about Jewish statehood itself.


For most of the Palestinians under Israeli control — those in the West Bank and Gaza Strip—Israel is not a democracy. It’s not a democracy because Palestinians in the Occupied Territories can’t vote for the government that dominates their lives. When Mr. Gantz sends Israeli troops to shut down their human rights groups, West Bank Palestinians can’t punish him at the ballot box. They can complain to the Palestinian Authority. But the P.A. is a subcontractor, not a state. Like other Palestinians, its officials need Israeli permission even to leave the West Bank. In Gaza, too, Israel determines, with help from Egypt, which people and products enter and exit. And Gaza’s residents, who live in what Human Rights Watch calls “an open-air prison,” can’t vote out the Israeli officials who hold the key.


This lack of democratic rights helps explain why Palestinians are less motivated than Israeli Jews to defend Israel’s Supreme Court. As the Israeli law professors David Kretzmer and Yael Ronen note in their book, “The Occupation of Justice,” “in almost all of its judgments relating to the Occupied Territories, especially those dealing with questions of principle, the Court has decided in favor of the authorities.” Enfeebling the court would undermine legal protections that Israel Jews take for granted but most Palestinians did not enjoy in the first place.


To be fair, roughly 20 percent of the Palestinians under Israeli control enjoy Israeli citizenship and the right to vote in Israeli elections. Yet it is often these Palestinians who protest most vociferously against Israel’s democratic credentials. In 2009, Palestinian Knesset member Ahmad Tibi quipped that Israel was indeed “Jewish and democratic: Democratic toward Jews, and Jewish toward Arabs.” To many liberal Zionists, that might sound churlish. After all, Mr. Tibi has now served in Israel’s parliament for almost 25 years. But he understands that the Jewish state contains a deep structure that systematically denies Palestinians legal equality, whether they are citizens or not.


Consider how Israel allocates land. Most of the land inside Israel proper was seized from Palestinians during Israel’s war of independence in the late 1940s, when more than half the Palestinian population was expelled or fled in fear. By the early 1950s, the Israeli government controlled more than 90 percent of Israel’s land. It still does. The government distributes that land for development and leases it to citizens through the Israel Land Authority. Almost half the seats on its governing council are reserved for the Jewish National Fund, whose mission is “strengthening the bond between the Jewish people and its homeland.”


This helps explain why Palestinians comprise more than 20 percent of Israel’s citizens but Palestinian municipalities, according to a 2017 report by a variety of Palestinian and Israeli human rights groups, encompass less than 3 percent of Israel’s land. In 2003, an Israeli government commission found that “many Arab towns and villages were surrounded by land designated for purposes such as security zones, Jewish regional councils, national parks and nature reserves or highways, which prevent or impede the possibility of their expansion.” Unable to gain permission, many Palestinian citizens build homes illegally — which are therefore subject to government demolition. Ninety-seven percent of the demolition orders in Israel proper between 2012 and 2014, according to the 2017 report, were against Palestinians.


This isn’t an accident. It’s the logical outgrowth of Israel’s self-definition. Israel is not a “state for all its citizens,” a concept Mr. Lapid said in 2019 that he has opposed “my entire life.” In 2018, when several Palestinian lawmakers introduced legislation “to anchor in constitutional law the principle of equal citizenship,” the Knesset’s speaker ruled that it could not even be discussed because it would “gnaw at the foundations of the state.” That same year, the Knesset passed legislation reaffirming Israel’s identity as the “nation-state of the Jewish people,” which means that the country belongs to Jews like me, who don’t live there, but not to the Palestinians who live under its control, even the lucky few who hold Israeli citizenship. All this happened before Mr. Netanyahu’s new government took power. This is the vibrant liberal democracy that liberal Zionists want to save.


Some Jews may worry that by advocating genuine liberal democracy — and thus exposing themselves to accusations of anti-Zionism — Mr. Netanyahu’s critics will marginalize themselves. But if they widen their vision they’ll see that the opposite is true. By including Palestinians as full partners, Israel’s democracy movement will discover a vast reservoir of new allies and develop a far clearer moral voice. Ultimately, a movement premised on ethnocracy cannot successfully defend the rule of law. Only a movement for equality can.


Peter Beinart (@PeterBeinart) is a professor of journalism and political science at the Newmark School of Journalism at the City University of New York. He is also editor at large of Jewish Currents and writes The Beinart Notebook, a weekly newsletter.



7) This Deadly Chemical Should Be Banned

By Rebecca Fuoco, David Rosner and Gerald Markowitz, Feb. 19, 2023

Ms. Fuoco is the director of science communications at the Green Science Policy Institute. Dr. Rosner is a professor of sociomedical sciences and history at Columbia. Dr. Markowitz is a history professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. 


A column of flames and dark smoke reaches high into the sky.

A black plume and flames rise over East Palestine, Ohio, from a controlled burn of chemicals carried by a derailed train. Credit...Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

Like a scene out of some postapocalyptic movie, Gov. Mike DeWine of Ohio convened a news conference on Feb. 5 to deliver a stark warning. “We are ordering them to leave,” he said of residents of the small rural community of East Palestine, Ohio, and a neighboring part of Pennsylvania. “This is a matter of life and death.” To emphasize the point, he added: “Those in the red area are facing grave danger of death if they are still in that area.”


In this case, the “grave danger of death” was not a zombie fungus or lethal bacteria but chemicals. The red area was an area one mile by two miles surrounding the town, on the Ohio-Pennsylvania border about 40 miles northwest of Pittsburgh.


Two days earlier, it was the site of a fiery derailment of train cars carrying the gas vinyl chloride and other chemicals. Freight trains typically transport more than two million carloads of hazardous materials each year, including many chemicals. Vinyl chloride is particularly dangerous and increasingly common, used primarily to make polyvinyl chloride, better known as PVC, a hard plastic resin used to produce pipes, wire, cable coatings and packaging. We should begin phasing out the use of this chemical.


It was a particular concern in East Palestine after the derailment. Because vinyl chloride is so flammable, it created a risk of an explosion that could launch deadly shrapnel as far as a mile. To avoid such a catastrophe, railroad officials vented the vinyl chloride and burned it off.


But shrapnel wasn’t the only risk. Inhaling vinyl chloride fumes can be deadly. Even people in neighboring towns were at risk. On Feb. 10, seven days after the crash, the Environmental Protection Agency said that chemicals were “known to have been and continue to be” released to the air, surface soil and surface waters.


Residents complained last week of rashes, headaches and a lingering odor. Thousands of dead fish turned up in streams near the crash site.


Vinyl chloride is not just suspected of causing cancer. The International Agency for Research on Cancer considers it a Group 1 carcinogen known to cause liver cancer in highly exposed industrial workers. It has also been associated with brain and lung cancers, lymphoma and leukemia.


We need to stop producing and using vinyl chloride and its most important end product, PVC plastics. Increasingly, major businesses are phasing it out. Many European communities have banned or restricted its use, even as the PVC plastics industry is expanding.


The United States should begin eliminating PVC by categories of use. Legislation has been floated in California to prohibit PVC in food packaging — a ban that could be expanded to other nonessential needs. Though PVC is inexpensive, it is replaceable in most cases. Alternatives include glass, ceramics, linoleum, polyesters and more.


Also, discarded PVC should be labeled a hazardous waste. The designation would put the burden on users for its safe storage, transportation and disposal, creating an incentive to accelerate its elimination. The E.P.A. tentatively rejected such an action in January but is still accepting public comment on the proposal.


You might wonder why such a hazardous chemical, among others, is being transported along American railways and through our communities. It’s because vinyl chloride is one of the most produced petrochemicals in the world.  Tens of millions of tons of it are manufactured annually. (It was used as an aerosol propellant in household consumer products like hair spray until it was banned in aerosols by the Consumer Product Safety Commission in 1974.)


Vinyl chloride manufacturers laid the groundwork for the chemical’s proliferation decades ago with cover-ups and disinformation campaigns. Their own research showed that exposure led to deadly cancers in rodents. Numerous studies have found that workers regularly exposed to the chemical during the 1970s developed malignant liver cancers at very high rates. Chemical companies knew early on they were unleashing a dangerous substance into the world.


The extraordinary efforts of the chemical industry to continue selling products it knew were harmful were recounted by two of us in our 2002 book “Deceit and Denial.”


In addition to the manufacturing and transportation risks of vinyl chloride, PVC plastics can release endocrine-disrupting phthalates, used to soften PVC, and cancer-causing dioxins into air and water during much of their life cycle.


Many of the vinyl chloride and PVC production facilities are clustered with other petrochemical facilities along an 85-mile stretch of the Mississippi River in Louisiana between Baton Rouge and New Orleans known as Cancer Alley. People in one town in the area, most of whom are Black, are about 50 times as likely to develop cancer as the average American. They face the constant threat of chemical accidents.


The PVC plastics industry is expanding in other parts of the country. Growing plastics hubs in Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia could become new cancer alleys.


As long as PVC production continues, the risk of vinyl chloride spills will persist. Worse, more workers and communities will be exposed to the ticking time bombs of cancer and other severe health harms.



8) Many in East Palestine, Skeptical of Official Tests, Seek Out Their Own

The moves reflect residents’ deep-seated mistrust of government screenings of toxic chemicals and fears of long-term effects from the train derailment.

By Emily Cochrane, Feb. 19, 2023


Workers stand next to a small body of river. Behind them sits large white rocks.

Officials are suggesting that families with private wells continue to drink bottled water until their water can be tested following a train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio. Credit...Brian Kaiser for The New York Times

EAST PALESTINE, Ohio — When a team came by the morning of Valentine’s Day to test the air quality in Maggie Guglielmo’s store a few blocks from where a freight train carrying hazardous chemicals derailed this month, the smell was undeniable.


“The air monitoring team left within 10 minutes due to the unpleasant/overwhelming odor,” the team of government and private environmental experts wrote in its report, describing a “super glue/pool/fruity-like odor.” But there was no detection of significant amounts of vinyl chloride, a colorless gas carried by the train, or other toxic chemicals.


Ms. Guglielmo, 67, was not satisfied. Instead, she paid $900 for an independent contractor to analyze the air in the store, Wristbands America, and was planning to pay to test her inventory of silicone bands. The sickly, plastic smell still lingers inside and clings to the creek, Sulphur Run, a few feet from her door.


“I’m not going to take that chance” of doing nothing, Ms. Guglielmo said, though she acknowledged the extra analysis could be a luxury for others. “Not everybody has money sitting around to do these kinds of tests.”


Reflecting the fundamental mistrust residents have in the railroad company Norfolk Southern and the government, Ms. Guglielmo is one of several people who live in the region who are seeking independent tests or are looking for ways to conduct their own.


State and federal officials have said repeatedly that they have yet to detect dangerous levels of chemicals in the air or municipal water, citing preliminary data from hundreds of homes in the town of roughly 4,700 people. Teams of experts from top environmental and health agencies have been fanning out across the region to test whether chemicals carried by the Norfolk Southern train or burned off days after the derailment have contaminated the air or water.


But Ms. Guglielmo and others, particularly on the outskirts of East Palestine near where the train collided, continue to report a lingering stench of chemicals in some parts of town and have found little comfort in the assurances in light of the rashes and headaches they have experienced.


Residents are also deeply suspicious of Norfolk Southern conducting its tests in tandem with government agencies and have questioned whether the tests are accounting for the creation of other chemicals when officials decided to burn the cargo of a car on the brink of explosion. The news, which arrived days after the derailment and the controlled burn, that the train had been carrying additional chemicals, further fueled their mistrust.


The threat of possible long-term exposure to the chemical cocktail released into the air and water, coupled with a deep fear that the town and its neighboring villages will be forgotten in the coming months, has also left many residents feeling as if they are on their own to prove that it is safe to remain or return through means that include paying out of pocket for their own tests. Some have become novice chemists, rattling off the names and effects of chemical compounds that had no meaning to them two weeks ago.


It is unclear, however, whether commercial tests outside of the government’s efforts will address the mushrooming pile of unanswered questions.


“Consumer testing does exist, but it is expensive — it’s not going to test for everything,” said Sydney Evans, a science analyst with the Environmental Working Group, a climate advocacy organization. Asked about doing home tests on wells, she warned that some may not pick up trace amounts of all the volatile organic compounds in the water, and that the legal limits for some contaminants released by the derailment are higher than some researchers consider safe.


Officials with the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency did not immediately respond to emails seeking comment.


“We are working closely with Ohio environmental and health agencies on the long-term plan to protect the environment and the community,” Alan Shaw, the president and chief executive of Norfolk Southern, said in a statement after visiting East Palestine this weekend. He noted that, after meeting with local officials, it was clear “they are frustrated by the amount of misinformation circulating about their community and are eager to show that the air and water are safe.”


Connor Spielmaker, a spokesman for the company, confirmed that it had contracted an independent environmental firm to collaborate with federal staff and conduct testing. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, it had screened 525 homes for air quality as of Saturday and had sampled the municipal water in town, with no concerning levels of contaminants. The E.P.A. had also tested 48 wells, mostly in Ohio, and found them safe.


Gov. Mike DeWine, speaking at a news conference on Friday, defended the veracity of tests, though he acknowledged that there was “nothing wrong with healthy skepticism.” Still, he added, “We believe the testing is accurate.”


He also said that the state would continue to test air and water in East Palestine until health experts determined the danger has passed, promising that “we are going to stay there until we are not needed.”


The federal government has also expanded its outreach in the area. The Biden administration dispatched staff members from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to East Palestine. And at Mr. DeWine’s request, the Department of Health and Human Services and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will set up a clinic on Monday for residents in the area with medical concerns.


The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, an arm of the federal government’s health department, will also launch an investigation assessing chemical exposure in the area. The most recent such assessment was done last year in Hawaii, after gasoline- and diesel-range hydrocarbons were discovered in a well overseen by the Navy.


A key Senate committee is expected to hold a hearing soon, examining the toll on the environment and on public health in the region. Ohio’s senators — Sherrod Brown, a Democrat, and J.D. Vance, a Republican — sent a joint letter on Saturday calling on the state and national E.P.A.s to test the air for dioxins, toxic pollutants that could have formed after vinyl chloride was burned in the train’s cargo.


Erin Brockovich, the environmental activist who has successfully challenged companies on the spread of toxic pollutants, is set to appear in East Palestine on Thursday for a town meeting, a day after former President Donald J. Trump visits.


Along streets in East Palestine, where shamrocks and dangling red-and-pink hearts were replacing winter holiday decorations on porches and front yards, officials have tied air filters to stop signs and street signs, wrapping them in plastic bags. Cases of bottled waters are piled in the parking lots of local businesses as volunteers and police officers haul them into passing cars.


Officials have encouraged families with private wells to keep drinking bottled water until their water has been tested. But scheduling those tests has been challenging as demand continues to grow, especially as neighboring communities wonder about the consequences of their proximity to the derailment and to the plume of smoke that followed.


At an emotional town meeting Wednesday, Linda Murphy, 49, confronted officials about the challenges she faced getting the water in her private well tested and whether it was safe to drink. Some private companies had turned her away, in part because they said they did not have the specialized tests needed to examine the chemicals on the train.


Four days later, a team arrived at her house. But when she and her husband pulled the filter out of their system Sunday morning as requested ahead of the visit, it smelled just like the chemicals that hung over Leslie Run, the creek near their home where hundreds of fish and frogs were found dead days after the derailment.


Her family is now prepared to renew their push for independent testing, regardless of the results of the E.P.A. tests.


“It’s a little worrisome,” said DJ Yokley, 38, whose broadcasting company is housed near the derailment next door to Ms. Guglielmo’s wristband company. The tests in his store did not detect any significant hazardous chemicals, but he was still weighing additional tests.


“That’s just another added expense,” he said, adding that thousands of dollars of equipment had been sitting in his store and might have been contaminated. “If you go into a marshmallow factory and there’s a mustard plant right beside it, then your marshmallows are going to taste like mustard. That’s exactly what’s happening.”


Even if they were not as concerned as they were in the immediate days after the derailment, other families said they were seeking their own tests with the future health of their land and families in mind.


Ryan Cresanto, 44, said his family had bought tests for the water on their land a few miles outside of East Palestine to establish a baseline for the current water quality. That will allow them to catch any possible changes to the chemical makeup — and do so independently of the railroad company, which he does not trust.


“We’d rather pay out of pocket,” Mr. Cresanto said.


Zolan Kanno-Youngs, Coral Davenport, James C. McKinley Jr. and Carlo Wolff contributed reporting.



9) As the Pandemic Swept America, Deaths in Prisons Rose Nearly 50 Percent

The first comprehensive data on prison fatalities in the Covid era sheds new light on where and why prisoners were especially vulnerable.

By Jennifer Valentino-DeVries and Allie Pitchon, Feb. 19, 2023


A man in a face mask bows his head while holding a candle and a sign that says: “Keep inmates safe gainst Covid-19.”

Prisoners’ family members prayed at a rally in Draper, Utah, in 2020. Credit...Steve Griffin/The Deseret News, via Associated Press

Deaths in state and federal prisons across America rose nearly 50 percent during the first year of the pandemic, and in six states they more than doubled, according to the first comprehensive data on prison fatalities in the era of Covid-19.


The tremendous jump in deaths in 2020 was more than twice the increase in the United States overall, and even exceeded estimates of the percentage increase at nursing homes, among the hardest-hit sectors nationwide. In many states, the data showed, high rates continued in 2021.


While there was ample evidence that prisons were Covid hot spots, an examination of the data by The New York Times underscored how quickly the virus rampaged through crowded facilities, and how an aging inmate population, a correctional staffing shortage and ill-equipped medical personnel combined to make prisoners especially vulnerable during the worst public health crisis in a century.


“There are so many who passed away due to not getting the medical care they needed,” said Teresa Bebeau, whose imprisoned friend died from complications of Covid and cancer in South Carolina. “Most of these people, they didn’t go in there with death sentences, but they’re dying.”


Covid infections drove the death totals, but inmates also succumbed to other illnesses, suicide and violence, according to the data, which was collected by law school researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles, and provides a more detailed, accurate look at deaths in prison systems during the pandemic than earlier efforts.


Altogether, at least 6,182 people died in American prisons in 2020, compared with 4,240 the previous year, even as the country’s prison population declined to about 1.3 million from more than 1.4 million.


Several of the states with the highest mortality rates in 2020 had a history of elevated prison deaths, including Alabama, Arkansas, South Carolina and West Virginia. Researchers said the high numbers — 96 deaths per 10,000 prisoners in West Virginia, more than in any other state — stemmed from long sentences, harsh conditions and relatively poor public health overall.


“Clearly the pandemic is the story, but it is just a part of the story,” said Aaron Littman, an assistant professor and the acting director of the U.C.L.A. Law Behind Bars Data Project.


Chrysti Shain, a spokeswoman for the South Carolina Corrections Department, said a lack of testing early in the pandemic had contributed to increased infections. “South Carolina has made significant changes in both its medical and mental health care systems over the past decade” to improve care in prisons, she said. Prison officials in the three other states did not respond to requests for comment.


Even some states with typically lower death rates saw a surge. Michigan and Nevada both had about 70 fatalities per 10,000 inmates in 2020, up from about 30 the previous year.


In New York, an early epicenter of the pandemic, the rate rose to 32 deaths per 10,000 inmates in 2020, from 25 the year before, while New Jersey recorded 51 deaths per 10,000, up from 21. Texas, which has the largest prison population in the country, had 48 deaths per 10,000, up from 28, and California, with the second-highest number of inmates, had 43 per 10,000 in 2020, up from 32.


A handful of states, including Vermont and Wyoming, saw death rates fall, their small prison populations largely spared when the first waves of the virus struck.


“If you have a lower population, then it’s less likely that people are going to be hurt or suffer from major life-threatening issues,” said Nicholas Deml, commissioner of the Vermont Department of Corrections.


Deaths in the federal prison system rose, but the rate was lower than those in most states.


For years, the Justice Department collected and analyzed data about federal and state prison deaths to help track health and safety problems. But that stopped in 2019 on the eve of the pandemic because of bureaucratic changes within the department. Since then, it has published only imprecise counts of fatalities, which often do not match the complete data.


A bipartisan Senate investigation in September found that the department was “failing to effectively implement” a 2013 law that required data collection. The Government Accountability Office also looked into the matter, and found that the department’s figures for 2021 had missed at least 340 deaths reported publicly by states.


After that investigation, Maureen Henneberg, deputy assistant attorney general for the Office of Justice Programs, told the Senate that the department had trouble gathering information because there was “significant underreporting of deaths in custody” in many states, and that the department “would like to work with Congress to improve the collection of this data.” The Justice Department did not respond to requests for further comment.


The U.C.L.A. Law project is among various efforts trying to fill that void. Researchers used public records requests and other means to collect data — which included the tally of deaths, and in many cases, information like the cause of death and the age of the inmate — from 49 states and the federal government. Data from 2021 is only partially complete, but reports from 28 states that together house about half the country’s prisoners showed death rates above prepandemic levels.


“It is essential that we as the public know what happens in institutions that incarcerate people in our name,” Mr. Littman said. “But unfortunately that has never been the case to the appropriate extent, and it has become worse over time.”


Aging Behind Bars


Nationally, the prison population is graying — in part because of inmates who were incarcerated under tough sentencing laws in the 1980s and 1990s.


In 2009, about 10 percent of all prisoners were 50 or older; by 2019, that number had jumped to 21 percent, according to the Justice Department. By the time they reach their 50s, prisoners are considered elderly, their expected life spans shortened by their years behind bars and, in many cases, drug use and poverty.


The aging, and often ailing, prison population was especially at risk when the pandemic hit, the data review showed, not only because the virus raged unchecked but because medical care for other illnesses could be slow or inadequate. Of the 46 inmates who died in West Virginia in 2020, 42 were older than 50; six were in their 80s.


“We have high rates of depression and suicide, high rates of obesity,” said Lydia Milnes, a lawyer with Mountain State Justice, a nonprofit in West Virginia. She said the opioid epidemic had plagued many prisoners, whose health continued to decline even after they were denied access to the drugs.


Some states have attempted to deal with an aging prison population through compassionate release programs, and others let out inmates early in 2020 because of Covid concerns. Vermont, for example, cut its number of inmates by 28 percent between 2009 and 2019. But such efforts can be a hard sell because many of the oldest and longest-serving inmates have been convicted of violent crimes like murder and sexual assault.


In Michigan, where lawmakers have held firm on laws imposing lengthy sentences, nearly 90 percent of the 248 who died in 2020 were 50 or older.


“They have people down there who have Huntington’s, who are mentally ill, bedridden, but they’re still here,” said Yusef Qualls, who was convicted at age 17 as the driver in a murder case and has been incarcerated in Michigan for 27 years. “They’re still holding them, you know? It’s kind of hard to see.”


Chris Gautz, a spokesman for the Michigan Corrections Department, said the state’s prisons had pushed to test inmates for Covid and get them early access to vaccines.


“Michigan has the oldest prisoner population in the country, but that is not because we as a department choose to keep prisoners longer,” he said, adding that the state legislature had increased the minimum amount of time people must serve and that courts had sentenced people to longer terms.


Amid a debate in 2021 about reducing sentences for good behavior, Dana Nessel, Michigan’s attorney general, a Democrat, argued in an opinion piece in the Detroit News that changing the law would undermine efforts to “provide victims and the community a sense of security and stability.”


A Health Care Crisis


Current and former inmates interviewed by The Times, as well as advocacy groups, said poor health care was a major factor in prison deaths. They described systems in which prisoners were charged for seeing a doctor, though many of them found it hard to afford. And when inmates received an appointment, they said, medical staff viewed them with suspicion.


“Doctors or providers will think a patient is malingering or somehow exaggerating their symptoms,” said Andrea Armstrong, a law professor at Loyola University in New Orleans who has been documenting and researching deaths in Louisiana prisons.


Correctional facilities have a hard time attracting nurses and doctors — a problem exacerbated during the pandemic, when it was also difficult to transport people to appointments outside the prison, and when fears of contracting Covid led to absenteeism among prison staff.


Some patients who died in 2020 had seen their health decline for years.


At Huttonsville Correctional Center in West Virginia, Robbie Campbell had been complaining of severe constipation and rectal bleeding since the beginning of 2016, according to medical records contained in a lawsuit. Mr. Campbell, a former coal miner who pleaded guilty to murder in 2010, had submitted multiple requests for medical care, but he was taken to the hospital only in June 2017 after he passed out from a loss of blood. He was diagnosed with colon cancer and died in 2020.


Mark Trammell, who was incarcerated in Lieber Correctional Institute in South Carolina, caught Covid-19 while being treated for liver cancer, after going years before receiving treatment for hepatitis C that he had contracted in prison, according to state records and his family and friends. He died in June 2020 after serving more than 40 years for voluntary manslaughter.


Not Enough Workers


For years, prisons throughout the country were seen as a boon in rural areas, where they were major employers. But towns that once served as recruiting grounds for correctional officers have been gutted by population declines, and prison jobs — with their low wages and potential dangers — have become less of a draw.


In South Carolina, the prison system has long contended with understaffing — as much as 50 percent below the required levels, according to a 2018 report by the state Corrections Department.


“That’s the root cause of pretty much every prison problem,” said Hayden Smith, a criminal justice professor at the University of South Carolina. The state has had recurringly high mortality rates in its prisons, including in 2020.


Ms. Shain, the corrections spokeswoman, agreed that the state, like many others, had staffing struggles. She said its prisons had provided “historic raises for security staff” in 2022 and more in 2023 and had since seen improvements in staffing.


Some states, like Florida and West Virginia, have called in the National Guard to augment understaffed facilities.


The lack of personnel means that violence can go unchecked, and that inmates at risk of suicide can be left without adequate supervision.


Even before the pandemic, prisons were increasingly relying on lockdowns and solitary confinement to control their populations, tactics that in turn restricted physical and mental health care.


“You have people just locked up alone for months,” Mr. Smith said. “If they didn’t have a mental health condition to start with, they certainly do by the end of that.”