Bay Area United Against War Newsletter, March 3, 2023




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!



Help U.S. Workers Visit Cuba on May Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We encourage you to help.

There are two ways to donate:

1.     Go-Fund Me Account:


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

             Diana Cervantes

             12206 Trinity St. 

             Los Angeles, CA 90061

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

In solidarity,

World-Outlook editors

—World-Outlook, March 2, 2023





National Mobilization for Reproductive Justice

ReproJusticeNow.org info@reprojusticenow.org 

Facebook @ ReproJusticeNow

Statement to the Media

March 3, 2023


National Mobilization for Reproductive Justice

Email: info@reprojusticenow.org

Contact: Helen Gilbert (National Coordinator)

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


For Release: Immediately

Interviews welcome


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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Mailing Address:

National Mobilization for Reproductive Justice

4710 University Way NE #100

Seattle, WA 98105


Add us to your address book.


For more information

Phone: 206-985-4621






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

Movement for Black Lives Legal Resources

Tilted Scales Collective






1) Biden Administration Asks Congress to Reauthorize Warrantless Surveillance Law

Facing steeper political headwinds than past cycles, the executive branch is packaging the spying authority known as Section 702 as more than a counterterrorism tool.

By Charlie Savage, Feb. 28, 2023


People looking at their cellphones on the subway in New York.

The law requires cellphone network operators to provide the government with copies of any phone calls, texts and internet communications to or from a foreign target. Credit...Karsten Moran for The New York Times

WASHINGTON — The Biden administration urged Congress on Tuesday to renew a controversial warrantless surveillance law, emphasizing that security officials use it for a broad range of foreign policy and national security goals like detecting espionage by countries like China and Iran or stopping hackers.


The administration’s effort is likely to face particularly steep headwinds because many Republicans have adopted former President Donald J. Trump’s distrust of security agencies and surveillance, bolstering privacy advocates who have long been skeptical of the law, known as Section 702.


To head off the resistance, the Biden administration has sought to cast the law, which would otherwise expire at the end of the year, as a tool that is used not only for counterterrorism but has also aided the government in identifying economic risks and preventing foreign actors from creating weapons of mass destruction.


In a letter to lawmakers, Attorney General Merrick B. Garland and Avril Haines, the director of national intelligence, described the law as vital.


“There is no way to replicate Section 702’s speed, reliability, specificity and insight,” they wrote.


Enacted in 2008, Section 702 legalized a form of a warrantless wiretapping program code-named Stellarwind, which President George W. Bush secretly started after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. It continues to be a counterterrorism tool; the letter also stressed, as the N.S.A. director Paul M. Nakasone said last month, that the surveillance program played a role in the drone strike in August that killed the Qaeda leader Ayman Al-Zawahiri.


But despite its recent shift in emphasis on uses beyond counterterrorism, the government has relied on Section 702 for the full array of foreign intelligence purposes from the start.


It allows the government to collect — on domestic soil and without a warrant — the communications of targeted foreigners abroad, including when those people are interacting with Americans. The National Security Agency can order email services like Google to turn over copies of all messages in the accounts of any foreign user and network operators like AT&T to furnish copies of any phone calls, texts and internet communications to or from a foreign target.


Section 702 is an exception to the Foreign Intelligence Act of 1978, or FISA, which generally requires the government to obtain individualized warrants from a court to carry out electronic surveillance activities for national-security purposes on domestic soil.


Republicans lawmakers have traditionally been more supportive of national-security powers like surveillance. But Mr. Trump’s repeated efforts to stoke mistrust of the F.B.I. and surveillance has altered the political calculus in the effort to renew the Section 702.


As part of the Russia investigation, F.B.I. applications for FISA wiretaps of Carter Page, a former adviser to the 2016 Trump campaign, were riddled with errors and omissions, an inspector general found. Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio, a Trump ally who is the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, which shares jurisdiction over FISA with the Intelligence Committee, told Fox News in October that “I think we should not even reauthorize FISA, which is going to come in the next Congress.”


Notably, however, the kind of wiretapping that the F.B.I. botched in the Russia investigation involved warrants, the authority for which is not expiring.


Section 702 has long attracted skepticism by civil libertarians for privacy reasons: When a targeted foreigner is communicating with an American, the government collects that target’s messages to and from the American without a warrant, too.


The letter on Tuesday, addressed to the top Republican and Democratic leaders in Congress, came as Matthew G. Olsen, the head of the Justice Department’s national security division, made the case for extending the law during a speech at the Brookings Institution.


“Its value cannot be overstated,” he said. “Without 702, we will lose indispensable intelligence for our decision makers and warfighters, as well as those of our allies. And we have no fallback authority that could come close to making up for that loss.”


Even as Mr. Olsen acknowledged that government officials have sometimes failed to comply with rules limiting when they can query for Americans’ information gathered under Section 702, he argued that various changes to ensure compliance should give lawmakers and the public confidence. “Unfortunately, in this highly sensitive area, we’ve made mistakes in recent years that have undermined trust,” he said.


Some privacy advocates have proposed requiring officials to obtain a warrant requirement before querying the raw repository of intercepts in search of Americans’ information. National security officials have opposed that idea, portraying it as potentially hamstringing the government to prevent it from gaining access to potentially important information it has already lawfully collected.


“As in past reauthorization cycles,” the letter said, the intelligence community and the Justice Department “are committed to engaging with Congress on potential improvements to the authority that fully preserve its efficacy.”



2) A Drug Company Exploited a Safety Requirement to Make Money

With a history as a date rape drug, a medication needed strict distribution controls. Its maker, Jazz Pharmaceuticals, used that to delay competition.

By Rebecca Robbins, Feb. 28, 2023

Brian Mahn, wearing a dark shirt and tan pants, sits on a bed and holds a medicine bottle.
Brian Mahn said he had to stop taking Xyrem because it was too difficult to wake up in the middle of the night for the second dose. Credit...Michael Stravato for The New York Times

The pharmaceutical industry is rife with tales of companies dreaming up ways to prolong their monopolies on lucrative drugs. They tinker with chemicals. They tweak dosing. They swap out capsules for tablets.


By piling up patents, drug companies delay the day when competitors can introduce similar, cheaper products.


Jazz Pharmaceuticals has figured out a way to push the boundaries even further — a feat that demonstrates the lengths to which drug makers go to eke out extra profits and that two federal courts have now ruled was improper.


Jazz’s most important product is a medication for the sleep disorder narcolepsy. The company patented the drug’s formulation. But Jazz also went further, arming itself with a new weapon to block competition.


Because of the drug’s serious side effects and its history of being abused for date rape, federal regulators required Jazz to come up with a plan to ensure that the drug was safely distributed to patients without falling into unintended hands. Jazz’s program included having a single pharmacy nationwide send the medication directly to patients.


Jazz took the unusual step of patenting that safety program and then listing those patents in a federal registry known as the Orange Book. Under an obscure federal rule, if a rival contested one of the patents in certain circumstances, federal regulators would be barred for more than two years from approving that competitor’s product.


That was precisely the strategy that Jazz deployed when a rival was poised to introduce an improved version of the drug.


Jazz’s narcolepsy drug, which is used by thousands of patients, is enormously lucrative, generating more than $13 billion in revenue since Jazz acquired it in 2005. Medicare now spends hundreds of millions of dollars annually for it. The drug accounted for 58 percent of Jazz’s revenue in 2021.


In other words, for every month that Jazz could delay the arrival of competition, the company and its shareholders stood to benefit financially.


But the tactics deprived narcolepsy patients of access to a new drug that was much easier to take.


Patent law experts say Jazz’s strategy of enforcing the patent on how the drug is distributed has strayed far from the ostensible purpose of the U.S. intellectual property regime, which is meant to reward drug makers for taking risks to develop and improve innovative products. The case, they say, is an egregious example of how drug companies exploit the patent system to shield their products from competition for as long as possible.


“It has very little to do with all of the reasons why we allow the patenting of drugs,” said Michael Carrier, a drug patent expert at Rutgers Law School in Camden, N.J. “A lot of this stuff is just a computer program.”


Jazz’s strategy has been criticized by the Federal Trade Commission and knocked down in court. A federal court in Delaware ruled in November that the company had inappropriately used the Orange Book to block the drug from its rival, Avadel Pharmaceuticals. Jazz appealed, and a federal circuit court on Friday upheld the lower court’s ruling.


The ruling won’t have a big impact on the availability of Avadel’s product, which was going to come to market in the coming months regardless of the court’s decision. But it is important because it shows there may be limits to how far the drug industry can go in exploiting the patent system to lock out rivals.


Aimee Christian, a spokeswoman for Jazz, defended the company’s patent strategy but said Jazz would comply with the court’s order to request that its patent be removed from the Orange Book, which is named for its brightly colored cover page.


“We remain confident in the strength of our patent portfolio and will continue to appropriately defend our intellectual property as we continue to focus on ensuring the safety of patients on oxybate therapy,” she said, referring to the company’s narcolepsy drug.


Since 2005, Jazz has enjoyed a near monopoly on treating the main symptoms of narcolepsy, which include excessive daytime sleepiness, loss of muscle control and interrupted sleep. Jazz sells two versions of its drug, called Xyrem and Xywav.


The list price of the highest dose of each version is now more than $200,000 annually, according to SSR Health, a data company. Xyrem is now 19 times as expensive as it was in 2007, when SSR began tracking it.


Jazz’s medication is a pharmaceutical-grade derivative of gamma-hydroxybutyric acid, or GHB, which is tightly regulated because of its history of abuse as a date rape drug after health food stores sold it as a dietary supplement in the late 1980s.


GHB was first synthesized and tested in the 1960s. Jazz, which is legally domiciled in Ireland but has many top executives based in California, did not do the original development work on the prescription version of the drug; the company acquired it nearly three years after its first approval.


Both versions of Jazz’s medication come as a bottled liquid. Patients mix it with water and drink it. Patients must take two doses daily: the first at bedtime and the second up to four hours later.


Brian Mahn, a 53-year-old consultant in Cypress, Texas, said he had to stop taking Xyrem several years ago because the dosing schedule was too difficult. He would sleep through the multiple alarms he set between 2:30 and 3 a.m., disrupting his family. Mr. Mahn would often take the second dose too late, leaving him with such severe brain fog in the morning that he was unable to drive to work.


Avadel’s product, Lumryz, shares the same drug substance as Xyrem but comes as a powder and, crucially, has an easier dosing schedule. Avadel’s powder is taken only once daily at bedtime, so patients don’t have to wake up in the middle of the night.


Because of that advantage, many patients are expected to switch to the Avadel drug once it becomes available.


Jazz decided to take action to defend its golden goose. Its strategy hinged on the federally mandated safety program, known as Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategies, or REMS, that it had patented and listed in the Orange Book.


Jazz’s REMS program consisted of a computerized system for tracking which physicians can prescribe a drug and having a single pharmacy ship the drug to patients nationwide.


About a decade ago, Jazz received seven patents related to its REMS program, and it listed them in the Food and Drug Administration’s Orange Book, according to an analysis by Mr. Carrier.


One of those patents, granted and listed in 2014, is at the center of Jazz’s dispute with Avadel.


Listing a patent in the Orange Book had important implications. Under a 1984 federal law, if a drug company accuses a rival of infringing on a patent in the Orange Book in certain circumstances, the F.D.A. cannot approve the competitor’s drug for at least 30 months.


The catch is that only certain types of drug patents — such as those protecting a medication itself or a method of using it — are allowed to be listed in the Orange Book. It is unclear how a REMS program, which is a system for getting the drug from a pharmacy to patients, fits either definition.


Because of those limitations, it is unusual but not unprecedented for a drug company to patent a REMS program and list it in the Orange Book.


Jazz has taken this strategy to a new level, with its chief executive even bragging to investors about how its REMS patents would make it hard for a manufacturer of generic drugs to set up its own REMS program.


Before the Avadel case, Jazz had sued nine companies that sought authorization for a generic version of Xyrem, accusing them of infringing on Jazz’s REMS patents. The strategy worked: Those manufacturers reached settlements with Jazz agreeing to delay the introduction of their products.


Experts in drug patents said such tactics were an abuse of the patent system.


REMS programs are “supposed to promote drug safety,” said Dr. Aaron Kesselheim, a professor of medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School. “That’s not supposed to be a mechanism for extending revenue streams.”


In 2020, Avadel asked the F.D.A. to approve its powdered narcolepsy drug. Over the next two years, Jazz filed a barrage of lawsuits claiming that Avadel was infringing on various patents. Included in those was a suit last summer that accused Avadel of violating the 2014 REMS patent in the Orange Book.


Because of the 1984 federal law, the lawsuit automatically meant that for 30 months, the F.D.A. couldn’t approve Avadel’s drug, even though, days after the suit was filed, the agency determined that the product was safe and effective.


In this case, the automatic delay was to last only about 12 months, not 30, because Jazz’s REMS patent was set to expire on June 17.


Jazz’s lawyers, at the firms Sidley Austin and Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, argued that Jazz’s REMS program represented “a method of using” the drug for the purposes of being included in the Orange Book.


But both federal courts rejected that argument, ruling that Jazz’s patent was inappropriately listed in the Orange Book because the REMS program was not related to the drug itself or to a method of using it. As a result, Jazz should not have been able to delay the F.D.A.’s approval of the rival drug.


“We have considered Jazz’s remaining arguments and find them unpersuasive,” judges on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit wrote in their ruling on Friday.



3) ILWU shuts down SF/Oakland docks for Mumia Abu-Jamal

By Dave Welsh, February 22, 2023

San Francisco

Clarence Thomas, at the mic, Feb. 16, 2023. (Photo Credit: Labor Media)

Members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union shut down the ports of Oakland and San Francisco Feb. 16 to demand that journalist and innocent political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal be exonerated and set free.


Local 10 workers began the day with a “stop-work meeting” at their union hall, then marched along the San Francisco Embarcadero to an inspiring rally at Harry Bridges Plaza. Bridges was the founder of the ILWU in 1937. 


They contend that the at least 200 “newly discovered” boxes of evidence — including a hand-written letter from the prosecution’s star witness demanding payment for his false but incriminating testimony at trial — will prove Mumia’s innocence. The boxes, found hidden in the DA’s office, also showed evidence of attempts to exclude Black people from the jury.


At the rally, Clarence Thomas, a third-generation longshore worker and former Local 10 officer, said that during the Black uprising of the 1960s, “we all had our consciousness raised by the movement: Malcolm X, the struggles of Martin Luther King, the Deacons for Defense, Stokely Carmichael, Huey P. Newton, Bobby Seale.” 


Thomas himself joined the Black Panther Party at the time.


“Mumia has personally thanked the ILWU for the actions we have taken, including in 1999 when we shut down all 29 ports on the West Coast to stop his execution,” Thomas said.


South Africa connection


In 1984 ILWU dockers refused to unload South African cargo at Pier 80 in San Francisco for 10 days to protest South Africa’s apartheid regime. Nelson Mandela recognized the important role of the ILWU in helping their freedom struggle, when he spoke at the Oakland Coliseum in 1990, soon after his release from prison.


Thomas pointed out that his union sent 14 ILWU members to South Africa this past January “to build the campaign for Mumia’s freedom. What kind of union does something like that?”


“Today,” said Thomas, “our union did not go to work in the ports of Oakland and San Francisco to demand Mumia’s freedom. No cargo moved. Trucking and railroad schedules got disrupted.


“Can you imagine if the Teamsters, the railroad workers, the airline pilots, if all the transportation unions had also taken off today? Mumia would be out of prison.”


While they were in South Africa, longshore worker David Newton, nephew of Black Panther Party co-founder Huey Newton, and ILWU retiree Jack Heyman met with Irvin Jim, General-Secretary of the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA). They agreed to use the period from Feb. 16 to March 16 to mobilize for Mumia. NUMSA is the largest single union in South Africa and one of the largest in Africa.


Other international protests for Mumia were scheduled for Sao Paulo, Brazil; Pretoria, South Africa; Tokyo; and several cities in Europe.


The Oakland Education Association, with its 3,000 teachers, sent a letter to Judge Lucretia Clemons urging Mumia’s release from prison. Mumia himself sent a letter thanking his labor supporters with these words: “When workers unite, the Earth trembles and the heavens shake.”



4) VISUAL INVESTIGATIONS: How an Israeli Raid on a Safe House Ended With Civilians Killed

A New York Times analysis of videos shows how an Israeli raid to capture Palestinian gunmen rippled into one of the most violent encounters in the West Bank in decades.

By Haley Willis, Christiaan Triebert, Hiba Yazbek and Patrick Kingsley, March 1, 2023


10:16 a.m.

Military vehicle

swerves into crowd


11:02 a.m.

Gunman killed




72-year-old man killed


Around 10 a.m.–1 p.m.

Raid on safe house

Between noon

and 1 p.m.

Two civilians killed

outside clinic














Satellite image by Planet LabsBy Scott Reinhard

When Israeli forces entered the city of Nablus in the occupied West Bank on the morning of Feb. 22, their goal was to apprehend three members of an armed Palestinian group in a single safe house. But after a firefight broke out with the three gunmen, chaos and violence spread well beyond the stated targets and into the busy surrounding streets.


Minutes after the rare and risky daytime raid began, additional support vehicles from Israel’s military and the police entered Nablus, establishing a perimeter around the old city, and blocking entry and exit points. Traveling in armored vehicles, the security forces were pelted with stones and oranges, and in some cases fired upon by other Palestinian gunmen.


The three men in the safe house and another gunman were killed. But in other cases, videos show that Israeli soldiers used deadly force against unarmed Palestinians, killing at least four people who did not appear to pose a threat.


In total, 11 people were killed and over 100 wounded, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry. The Israel Defense Forces reported no injuries.


The operation came at a time when the situation in the West Bank has been rapidly deteriorating. One act of violence is typically responded to by another, accelerating a cycle of bloodshed. Palestinian officials said this was the deadliest start to a year there since 2000. Sixty-four Palestinians have been killed over the last two months, and at least 13 Israelis have been killed in the territory and Jerusalem.


The Times obtained security camera footage, witness video and testimony from multiple locations in Nablus, and reviewed posts and live streams from social media that captured the operation to establish where and when the raid and ensuing lethal action played out.


In response to questions from The Times, the I.D.F. said that “the circumstances” of the raid were under examination.


Just before 10 a.m., men who appeared to be undercover Israeli soldiers infiltrated the old city’s market area, two witnesses told The Times. A resident, Sahar Zalloum, 63, saw a stranger wearing a long gray robe underneath a coat. “I asked him if he needed anything,” Ms. Zalloum said. “He immediately pulled out a gun and said, ‘Go home.’”


A military spokesman, Lt. Col. Richard Hecht, said the Army made the decision to conduct the raid during daytime — when streets and markets would be brimming with civilians — because they had to act fast on new intelligence about the gunmen’s location.


“In Nablus, you have a situation where you had a raid take place in the middle of the day, which is different than some of the other conduct,” said Omar Shakir, Israel and Palestine director at Human Rights Watch. “And it seems one of the end results of that was a lot of injuries.”


Videos show Israeli security forces in combat gear making their way on foot through the busy market and taking up positions in homes and on rooftops surrounding the safe house where three gunmen with the Lions’ Den militia — the targets of the raid — are sheltering. When they refuse to surrender, a firefight breaks out, and will continue for several hours.


By 10:15 a.m., Israeli reinforcements are entering Nablus along a main road, and crowds of local residents, angered by the Israelis’ presence across the old city, start congregating.


Nablus is technically under Palestinian control, but Israeli forces often run missions into the city to arrest members of armed groups like the Lions’ Den, which Israeli officials accuse of being involved in terrorist activities.


At an intersection about a quarter-mile north of the safe house, a group hurls stones and other objects at the passing convoy when one Israeli military vehicle suddenly swerves toward the gathering, narrowly missing several people on the street.


“They didn’t care if they hurt civilians,” said Amid al-Masry, a political leader in central Nablus.


Security camera footage of the same incident, captured at a nearby shop, shows that no one in the crowd appears to be carrying a firearm. A military spokesman said that the driver might have lost control of the vehicle accidentally because of heavy stone throwing.


Video from the nearby city center shows several Palestinian gunmen gathering and repeatedly firing rifles — though it’s not clear at what. Israeli support vehicles have also taken up positions in the area.


Security camera footage shows that as one Palestinian fighter, Musab Awais, appears to take aim with a rifle at an Israeli vehicle across the street, he is shot and falls to the ground. Several men rush in to help. One man picks up his rifle. More shots are fired in their direction as they carry Mr. Awais, who later died, into an ambulance.


By this time, about half a mile away, Israeli military vehicles have spread along the southern edge of the old city. One rams a parked civilian car against a wall. Down the street, another vehicle plows through a makeshift barricade of steel dumpsters at an intersection, nearly hitting a person before crashing into a building.


Twenty minutes later, Muhammad Anbousi, 24, approaches the same intersection and, concealed by a parked car, sets off fireworks toward a military vehicle parked there, cellphone video obtained by The Times shows. A soldier inside the vehicle, about 85 yards away, shoots at Mr. Anbousi as he hides behind the car. He appears to sustain a leg injury. Photographs taken by The Times at the scene show the car riddled with bullet holes.


Mr. Anbousi calls for help, and another man, Jasser Qaneer, comes to his aid. A minute later, the two men begin running away from the Israeli vehicle. Mr. Anbousi is limping. They appear to be posing no threat to the Israeli forces when they are shot from behind. A military spokesman told The Times that the incident was under investigation.


“It’s difficult to see from the footage how Muhammad Anbousi or Jasser Qaneer posed any threat, much less the imminent threat to life that would justify the use of lethal force under international law, at the moment Israeli forces gunned them down,” said Mr. Shakir, the Human Rights Watch director. “This appears to be yet another case of Israeli forces using unlawful, excessive force.”


As Mr. Anbousi and Mr. Qaneer lie motionless on the pavement, the Israeli military vehicle pulls up to the scene and then backs away. Mr. Qaneer appears to have been shot in his head, and a video filmed several minutes later shows blood drenching the area around Mr. Anbousi’s chest.


Khaled Lidawi, a witness who helped retrieve the bodies of the two men, told The Times that Mr. Qaneer died instantly and that Mr. Anbousi was dead by the time a Palestinian ambulance arrived.


By now, around 12:30 p.m., Israeli forces begin withdrawing from Nablus. Video evidence shows that two bystanders are shot and killed as the vehicles are heading out.


A group of onlookers is gathered near a courtyard between Al-Rahma medical clinic and a mosque. A man standing along the sidewalk, separate from the group, appears to fire a shot at a passing Israeli vehicle.


He runs into the courtyard where others are standing. Two more armored vehicles drive by and fire multiple shots at the crowd. A military spokesman said that the soldiers were responding to live fire.


The flurry of bullets kill the 65-year-old Abd al-Hadi Ashqar, who had just left the mosque, and the 16-year-old Muhammad Shaaban, three clinic workers told The Times.


“If you look at this objectively, it’s clear that the security forces involved violated human rights law by indiscriminately firing on a group of bystanders and taking the lives of those who didn’t pose a threat,” said Sarah Harrison, a former Pentagon attorney who now works at the International Crisis Group as a senior analyst focused on military partnerships of the United States. By law, U.S. officials are required to evaluate footage like this to assess whether Israeli military units should remain eligible for security assistance, she added.


“It should be noted that this was an operational event during which armed gunmen fired massively at the soldiers, who responded with live fire,” the Israel Defense Forces said in a statement to The Times. “In addition, violent riots were instigated, in which suspects hurled rocks, Molotov cocktails and explosive devices toward the forces.”


At the safe house, after an hourslong firefight, the three gunmen Israeli forces initially set out to apprehend are dead. But so are other local residents. Video shows Adnan Beara, 72, lying slain on the ground. He had visible injuries to his arm, neck and waist, a medic at the scene told J-Media Network, a local news agency.


“It shows the recklessness of the raid,” said Mr. al-Masry, the local political leader. “They didn’t think about the collateral damage.”



5) New York Will Pay Millions to Protesters Violently Corralled by Police

The police boxed in racial justice demonstrators in 2020, an anti-protest practice known as “kettling,” then hit them with batons and pepper spray. Hundreds will receive $21,500 each.

By Maria Cramer, March 1, 2023


People in masks raise their hands as the police surround them on a street.
During the racial justice protests of 2020, the police corralled demonstrators around New York City and arrested them en masse, a practice known as kettling. Credit...Hiroko Masuike/The New York Times

New York City has agreed to pay $21,500 to each of hundreds of demonstrators who were penned in by the police in the Bronx during racial justice protests in 2020, then charged at or beaten with batons, according to a legal settlement.


If a judge approves the settlement filed in federal court late Tuesday, the amount would be one of the highest ever awarded per person in a class action case of mass arrests, and could cost the city between $4 million and $6 million.


The case concerned roughly 300 people who were arrested on June 4, 2020, in the Mott Haven neighborhood of the Bronx during protests against the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers the week before. His death set off protests across the country, including in New York, where thousands of people demonstrated in May and June.


On June 4, the police boxed in hundreds of protesters who had peacefully gathered on 136th Street and then prevented them from leaving, a practice known as “kettling,” according to the lawsuit.


They were restrained with tight plastic handcuffs also known as zip ties by officers who were not masked as the pandemic raged. Officers wielding batons swung at protesters and hit them with pepper spray, according to the lawsuit.


Samira Sierra, 31, one of the protesters who sued the city and who lives in the Bronx, said she was “violated” by the police during the demonstrations.


“We had every right to protest, yet, the City of New York made an explicit statement that day that the people of the Bronx are at will to be terrorized,” she said in a statement.


The kettling strategy was broadly defended at the time by Mayor Bill de Blasio and the police commissioner, Dermot F. Shea, who said it was needed because protesters were defying curfews and looters had ransacked parts of Manhattan, though the demonstrations had been largely peaceful.


According to the lawsuit, the protesters arrested in the Bronx were surrounded by police officers before an 8 p.m. curfew and prevented from leaving.


City leaders approved the tactics in an effort to “suppress the protests with well-orchestrated operations corralling and violently arresting the protesters,” the lawsuit said. “Many protesters were left injured and bleeding. Some protesters fainted, or lost consciousness and went into convulsions.”


The people who were arrested eventually had their cases dismissed, said Rob Rickner, one of the lawyers for the protesters, who said the kettling strategy was a part of a “preplanned show of force.”


In a statement, the police said that two and a half years after the protests, many of the department’s policies and training for large-scale demonstrations have been revised. Those revisions were made based on internal reviews and recommendations from three outside agencies that investigated police actions during that period.


“The NYPD remains committed to continually improving its practices in every way possible,” the statement said.


The 2020 protests were “a challenging moment for the department as officers who themselves were suffering under the strains of a global pandemic did their utmost to help facilitate people’s rights to peaceful expression all while addressing acts of lawlessness including wide-scale rioting, mass chaos, violence, and destruction,” the statement said.


Lawyers for the demonstrators described the settlement as “historic.” They said that before this agreement, the highest amount paid per person in a case of mass arrests was in 2010, when a federal judge awarded $18,000 per person to demonstrators picked up in a mass arrest during a 2000 protest near the World Bank and International Monetary Fund buildings in Washington, D.C., in a $13.7 million settlement.


The final amount New York City will have to pay in the Bronx case is not clear.


The lawyers said that while about 330 people were eligible to receive payments, as many as 90 of them have already settled with the city in separate complaints.


Other protesters may have decided to file separate claims against the city, especially those people who reported more severe injuries during their encounters with the police, Mr. Rickner said.


The agreement was filed weeks after the city released data showing that it had paid out $121 million last year to settle police misconduct cases. That amount, the most in five years, was awarded mainly to people whose criminal convictions were reversed years after their trials, but also included settlements from lawsuits filed following Black Lives Matter protests in 2020.


The city and lawyers for the protesters agreed to settle the Bronx case in December, but asked the court to file the motion detailing the settlement in February to give both sides time to finalize it.


The class action lawsuit was brought by five of the protesters — Ms. Sierra and her sister Amali Sierra, Ricardo Nigaglioni, Alex Gutierrez, and Charles Wood, who are all in their 30s.


The shocking scenes of looting, scuffles between the police and protesters and destruction of police cars led then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mr. DeBlasio to announce on June 1 that they would deploy twice as many police officers and impose a curfew.


“There comes a point where enough is enough,” Mr. de Blasio said.


But videos and photos from protesters and reporters showed police officers cornering and striking protesters who were demonstrating peacefully.


Over a period of several days, New York Times journalists covering the protests saw officers repeatedly charge at demonstrators after curfew with seemingly little provocation, shoving them onto sidewalks, striking them with batons and using other rough tactics.


Mr. DeBlasio, who was booed during a memorial for Mr. Floyd, later pledged to review reports of police officers behaving inappropriately.



6) What Could Happen in the Years After the Ohio Train Derailment

By Vanessa Ogle, March 3, 2023

Ms. Ogle, a writer in Brooklyn, grew up in Gratiot County, Mich., the site of an environmental disaster in the early 1970s. 


A house in East Palestine, Ohio, with packages of bottled water lined up on the porch.
A house in East Palestine, Ohio. Credit...Photographs by Rich-Joseph Facun for The New York Times

Dead birds still fall from the sky near my hometown. Their bodies hit the ground as part of the fallout of an environmental disaster that dates back to the 1970s, the result of corporate pollution that made the county I grew up in the home of one of Michigan’s most notorious Superfund sites.


It’s impossible to know what environmental and health challenges the residents of East Palestine, Ohio, will face in the years to come, but my worry is that they will know what I experienced from childhood onward: unease, loved ones getting sick and a fear of natural landscapes that should be local treasures.


In East Palestine, the derailment of a freight train last month, which was carrying toxic chemicals, including vinyl chloride, has already had a clear impact on wildlife and residents. The Environmental Protection Agency continues to monitor the situation.


But the people living there must be prepared for the reality that this disaster could affect their lives in both monumental and minor ways, in a manner that is not fully visible yet. When the media frenzy fades, they should be ready to organize to ensure that the government provides necessary resources to their communities. Organizing, in my own experience, may have to continue for decades.


There have been reports of more than 43,000 animals dying, mostly fish. Residents have reported various health issues, including respiratory and skin ailments.


My town in rural Central Michigan — a part of Gratiot County — was only a few miles from the site of the Velsicol chemical plant, and the fallout of that catastrophe and the environmental cleanup defined much of my early life.


The environmental disaster I faced in Michigan was different from the current crisis in East Palestine. Contamination (primarily of the Pine River) and pollution happened in my county, initially out of the public eye, because from the 1930s to the 1970s a plant produced chemical compounds and products in the town of St. Louis, Mich. In other words, the company had a long presence in the community.


The derailment in East Palestine was happenstance, at least in part the product of bad luck. Still, I see unsettling parallels in my own Midwestern experience with environmental catastrophe and corporate failure.


In Michigan, we suffered horrific tragedy in multiple parts. The first occurred in 1973, before I was born, when the flame retardant PBB, which was produced at the chemical plant, was mixed up with livestock feed supplements. The result was disastrous and sickened the animals. The cause, at first, was unknown, which created more chaos and confusion. It has been estimated that 70 to 90 percent of Michigan residents may have been affected by the tainted livestock through consumption of meat, eggs and milk. (While Michigan residents may have been affected through consumption of tainted products from the sickened livestock, birds fell from the skies for years because they fed on contaminated worms, insects and other grub.) After the plant closed, the county was warned that chemicals, including DDT, were found in the Pine River. More than $100 million has been spent to clean up the area, and that work continues.


Like East Palestine, the town I grew up in is a working-class community that has been a victim of both federal neglect and corporate greed. I have seen many people in the county diagnosed with diseases and illnesses, including multiple cancers and autoimmune issues, which, according to studies, could stem from chemical exposure.


The Ohio senators Sherrod Brown (a Democrat) and J.D. Vance (a Republican) recently sent a letter to the directors of the state’s E.P.A. and the federal E.P.A. that requested information on plans to monitor East Palestine, as well as the surrounding area, for highly toxic dioxins. This bipartisan effort is crucial, because it’s important for this disaster to receive attention and assistance as part of an all-hands-on-deck approach.


Immediately after a catastrophe — especially like the one in East Palestine, which commanded attention on social media with its disturbing images of smoke and flame — there is often an outpouring of interest and assistance. There was another unusual twist to this one: The East Palestine disaster has affected residents who were extras in the film adaptation of the Don DeLillo novel “White Noise.” The parallel between the actual derailment and the fictional event (in the movie and the novel, a train accident results in a chemical spill) was irresistible to the media.


It’s vital, though, that the focus remain when the striking visuals fade away — and that the unseen consequences get as much attention as what first lit up Twitter and TikTok. Environmental crises like this one can be slow-moving, and people who need help may not know for weeks, months, years or even decades what the true consequences could be.


The environmental monitoring and continued attention could be very expensive. Financial resources should be available for health monitoring, environmental protection, wildlife research, cleanup efforts and other necessary resources for long-term remediation. This will mean the federal government cannot leave East Palestine behind.


I’m still haunted by the unnecessary tragedy that was the backdrop to my youth. Though many are aware of the dangers in the water and ample signage warns residents about not consuming fish, in the summer, people still can’t resist fishing there. Much of that fishing is recreational, but there is always a fear that some people may try to cook and consume their catch.


The human margin-of-error reality has to be acknowledged. Many people canoe or boat not far from the site where Velsicol leaked its chemicals, and I’ve watched dogs wade there. People understand the dangers, but as so much time has passed, they have become accustomed to them.


Advocacy is critical. My home county has incredibly engaged individuals who make up the Pine River Superfund Citizen Task Force. Local advocates pressured the politicians in my area and helped make cleanup a top priority.


But the onus of advocacy shouldn’t be on residents, who are the victims here. Government has to step up and spearhead efforts, and corporations have to be held accountable if they are found to be at fault.


Most important, there needs to be a continuous bipartisan effort to get answers and funding to understand what the consequences in Ohio will be. And even as the terrifying visuals fade and life appears to return to a sense of normalcy, attention must be paid to this disaster and the physical, ecological and emotional battle that will inevitably follow.



7) ‘Evacuate Us!’ Fear and Anxiety Boil Over as Residents Confront Train Company on Derailment

As a representative for Norfolk Southern tried to apologize and outline its recovery efforts, residents shouted over him at a meeting in East Palestine, Ohio, demanding that the company “do the right thing.”

By Ida Lieszkovszky and Emily Cochrane, March 2, 2023

Residents vented and pleaded on Thursday night, describing how their families were still living in hotels or experiencing lingering health problems, including repeated vomiting and rashes.
Residents vented and pleaded on Thursday night, describing how their families were still living in hotels or experiencing lingering health problems, including repeated vomiting and rashes. Credit...Alan Freed/Reuters

EAST PALESTINE, Ohio — Frustrations boiled over on Thursday night in the largest public confrontation yet between the people of East Palestine and the operator of the freight train that derailed nearly a month ago, with angry residents in an emotional town hall lashing out at the lone representative from Norfolk Southern who took questions at the meeting.


As Darrell Wilson, a top government relations official for Norfolk Southern, tried repeatedly to apologize to the community and outline the company’s recovery efforts, residents interrupted and shouted over him, demanding that he commit to getting them out of the area, and that the company “do the right thing.”


“We are sorry,” Mr. Wilson said. “We’re very sorry for what happened. We feel horrible about it.”


“Evacuate us!” one person yelled, over Mr. Wilson’s apologies. “Get my grandchildren out of here!” another man yelled. “If you care about us, get our grandkids out.”


Standing before Mr. Wilson and an assortment of environmental, health and political officials in the auditorium of East Palestine High School, residents vented and pleaded, describing how their families were still living in hotels or experiencing lingering health problems, including repeated vomiting and rashes.


They told the officials how they felt trapped, with few resources to move away from the homes they had spent their lives building, and demanded more answers about the validity of the testing done on their air, water and soil.


Norfolk Southern had abruptly pulled out of a previously scheduled meeting last month, citing unspecified threats to officials.


The fiery clash underscored how deeply anxiety and mistrust still run in East Palestine, a town of about 4,700 people, after the derailment on Feb. 3. The decision to burn the train’s cargo of vinyl chloride and other chemicals in order to avert the threat of an explosion heightened fears in the community about the long-term consequences of chemical exposure, and the meeting on Thursday night appeared to do little to assuage them.


Earlier on Thursday, the Environmental Protection Agency said it had instructed Norfolk Southern to test for dioxins, toxic pollutants that could have formed after the chemical burn-off. And last month, the E.P.A. issued an order that not only demanded that the company pay for all cleanup associated with the disaster, but also required that it “attend and participate in public meetings at E.P.A.’s request” — including Thursday’s town hall.


But the continued discontentment with both the rail company and government agencies was evident just minutes into the meeting.


“Why did you wait so long?” one man yelled out as Debra Shore, the E.P.A. regional administrator, explained the February order and the requirement to test for dioxins. As the director of the Ohio E.P.A., Anne M. Vogel, reiterated that testing of the water had yet to show high levels of contaminants, another woman yelled out: “What about private wells? We’ll just stay here and die.”


And as E.P.A. officials reiterated that dioxin testing had begun, people yelled out, “Start now!” and “It’s too late!”


Dioxins can cause cancer, interfere with hormones and cause damage to reproductive and immune systems, according to the E.P.A. While the toxic pollutants are already present in many environments — they can be byproducts of burning fuel, among other things — the E.P.A. has been working for decades to reduce their production.


Ms. Shore also said the agency was working to approve a plan that would remove the railroad tracks, as well as the contaminated soil underneath. And she acknowledged that the derailment had upended homes that had been there for generations, pledging that her agency and others were committed to the recovery effort.


“We owe it to everyone, to everyone affected by the Norfolk Southern train derailment, to ensure that you continue to build those roots, that future generations can continue to proudly call this area home,” she said. “That is what E.P.A. is working toward. And we will not be leaving until you are satisfied.”


It is Norfolk Southern that has faced the largest barrage of demands and intensifying scrutiny from lawmakers and officials, who are furious over not only the derailment, but also the consequences of the decision to burn off some of the toxic chemicals carried by the train.


Mr. Wilson, the company representative, repeatedly struggled to speak over the angry crowd on Thursday, even as he pledged that Norfolk Southern would continue to support the community and that it had signed a lease in the town.


“They're sending a representative because they’re scared,” said Courtney Miller, 35, who lives about 100 yards from the derailment site, she said. “They’re scared because we’re mad, we’re upset.”


“These people care, and I can’t leave them,” she added, her voice choking up. “So I will stand here and stomp my feet and be as loud as I can, until somebody does something and gets these people out of here. It’s not safe.”


While the company’s chief executive, Alan H. Shaw, separately made a trip to meet with local officials and some railroad employees last month, some residents were disappointed to not be able to confront him on Thursday.


At one point, someone in the crowd could be heard asking, “Where’s Alan?” Another person passed out T-shirts mocking the company’s logo, rebranding it as “Nofolk sufferin” and replacing the logo’s horse with a broken train.


Candice Desanzo, 43, who came to the meeting with her 1- and 2-year-old sons, said she was worried about their health and determined to speak to Mr. Shaw directly.


“If I did somebody wrong, I’m going to stand up and I’m going to face my wrongs,” she said. “And I’m just one simple human being — they’re a corporation.”


Like other residents, she expressed frustration with the race to ensure that trains were back running through the town as soon as the evacuation order had been lifted.


“Every time I hear a train, it makes me sick now,” she said. “It’s just mind-blowing to me how really ignorant they’ve been to us in every possible way that they could when they should be doing everything that they possibly can to help us.”


Mr. Shaw is also set to testify before a key Senate committee next week as lawmakers and state officials demand more information about what led to the derailment and the possible long-term effects on the region’s environment and public health.


“You’re going to determine the finish line — you’re going to determine when it’s made right,” Representative Bill Johnson, Republican of Ohio, said on Thursday, pledging a separate House hearing on the environmental response, along with a field hearing in the region.


President Biden, speaking to reporters on Capitol Hill on Thursday after meeting with Senate Democrats, said that he “would be out there at some point” when asked if he would visit Ohio. He also confirmed that he would support legislation championed by the state’s two senators — Sherrod Brown, a Democrat, and J.D. Vance, a Republican — and other lawmakers that would toughen railway safety regulations.


Both residents and rail workers have focused their concerns on the possibility of harmful exposure to the train’s cargo and any other chemicals that seeped into the community’s environment. In the days after the derailment, residents complained about migraines, rashes and a persisting chemical odor, even as preliminary data from government officials did not show significant levels of vinyl chloride or other dangerous chemicals.


On Wednesday, Jonathon Long, the chairman of the union branch that represents Norfolk Southern employees, including those helping clean up the site of the derailment, wrote to Gov. Mike DeWine of Ohio condemning the railroad company and its treatment of its workers. He said he had been told that some of the workers were not given appropriate protective gear to wear, despite the threat of possible exposure, and that others had continued to complain about migraines and nausea days after the derailment.


As of Thursday, about 2.1 million gallons of wastewater and 1,400 tons of solid waste have been hauled away from the site of the derailment, according to data provided by Mr. DeWine’s office. Out of tests done on 151 private well systems, 57 samples have been verified and do not show worrisome contaminant levels, matching similar results from the municipal water systems.


Lisa Friedman contributed reporting.



8) Whiskey Fungus Fed by Jack Daniel’s Encrusts a Tennessee Town

The dark growth, fed by alcohol vapors from barrels of aging Jack Daniel’s whiskey, has coated homes, cars, patio furniture and road signs in a sooty crust, residents said. One woman is suing Lincoln County.

By Michael Levenson, March 1, 2023

A dark and feathery fungus coats tree branches as a thick layer.
Whiskey fungus on tree branches in Lincoln County, Tenn. Residents have been complaining about the ethanol-fueled fungus from a Jack Daniel’s distillery in neighboring Moore County. Credit...Patrick Long

The ethanol-fueled fungus known as whiskey fungus has thrived for centuries around distilleries and bakeries. It’s been the source of complaints from residents who live near Kentucky bourbon distilleries, Canadian whiskey makers and Caribbean rum manufacturers.


Now, it is driving a wedge between some residents of Lincoln County, Tenn., and Jack Daniel’s, the famed distillery founded in 1866 in neighboring Moore County.


For months, some residents have complained that a sooty, dark crust has blanketed homes, cars, road signs, bird feeders, patio furniture and trees as the fungus has spread uncontrollably, fed by alcohol vapors wafting from charred oak barrels of aging Jack Daniel’s whiskey.


Jack Daniel’s has built six warehouses, known as barrelhouses, to age whiskey in the rural county, which is home to about 35,000 residents, and is building a seventh on a property that has room to house one more, a company spokesman said. The distillery has asked the county to rezone a second property where it could build six additional barrelhouses.


A company representative, Donna Willis, told county officials in November that 14 barrelhouses would generate $1 million in annual property tax revenue for the county, which had approved about $15 million in general fund spending for the 2022 fiscal year.


But not all residents are happy about the expansion.


Christi Long, the owner of a local mansion built in 1900, which she operates as a venue for weddings and other events, sued the county in January, contending that barrelhouses near her property lacked the proper permits. Insider previously reported on the dispute.


A judge last week ruled that one barrelhouse currently under construction had not been properly approved and that its building permit would have to be rescinded until Jack Daniel’s obtained the necessary permits.


Ms. Long’s lawyer, Jason Holleman, said he planned to ask the judge and the county to stop Jack Daniel’s from using other barrelhouses near Ms. Long’s 4,000-square-foot mansion, known as the Manor at ShaeJo.


Ms. Long and her husband, Patrick Long, said that whiskey fungus had already inundated the property, darkening the copper roof and exterior walls, creeping over the rock garden and metal gate and encrusting the branches of magnolia trees. Nearby, it blackens metal road signs, they said.


The Longs said they use a high-pressure hose to wash the property every three months with Clorox bleach and water, but the fungus always returns.


“If you take your fingernail and run your fingernail down our tree branch, it will just coat the tip of your finger,” Mr. Long said. “It’s just disgusting.”


Ms. Long said her corner of Lincoln County “is going to be black as coal” unless Jack Daniel’s installs air filters in the barrelhouses, one of which sits about 250 yards from her property.


“This fungus now is on steroids,” she said.


A lawyer who represents Lincoln County declined to comment, citing the continuing litigation.


Melvin Keebler, general manager of the Jack Daniel Distillery, said in a statement that the company “complies with all local, state, and federal regulations regarding the design, construction, and permitting of our barrelhouses.”


“We are committed to protecting the environment and the safety and health of our employees and neighbors,” Mr. Keebler said.


At a county commission meeting in November, Ms. Willis, the director of technical services, maintenance and barrel distribution at Jack Daniel’s, said that studies have shown that the fungus is not hazardous to human health and does not damage property.


“Could it be a nuisance?” Ms. Willis said. “Yeah, sure. And it can easily be remedied by having it washed off.”


She said the company would not agree, however, to power-wash homes, saying Jack Daniel’s could be held liable for any damage.


Ms. Willis also said that air filters could hurt the flavor that Jack Daniel’s whiskey acquires during the aging process. Distillers refer poetically to the liquor that evaporates during that process as “the angel’s share.”


The fungus that thrives off the lost alcohol has been noted at least since the 1870s, when Antonin Baudoin, the director of the French Distillers’ Association, observed a “plague of soot” blackening the walls of distilleries in Cognac, France.


James A. Scott, a professor at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto who has studied the fungus since 2001 — and helped name its genus, Baudoinia, in honor of Baudoin — said he was not aware of any research specifically looking at the health effects of exposure to the fungus.


But the fungus can destroy property and can cling to almost any surface, he said. A puff of alcohol, Dr. Scott said, makes it remarkably resistant to temperature changes, allowing it to withstand hot summers in Tennessee.


“The fungus is pretty destructive, and the only way to stop it is to turn off its alcohol supply,” Dr. Scott wrote in an email. “It wrecks patio furniture, house siding, almost any outdoor surface. I’ve seen trees choked to death by it. It is a small mercy that it does not also appear to have a negative impact on human health.”


Tracy Ferry said she and her husband, Warren Ferry, who bought a home in Lincoln County three years ago, were hoping that Jack Daniel’s would install air filters.


Ms. Ferry said that since Jack Daniel’s built a barrelhouse next to her house in December, whiskey fungus had been accumulating on the roof of her home and car and on trees on her property. She said she had scrubbed the paint off wooden patio furniture while trying to remove the dark growth.


“I could try and sell, but what am I going to get?” Ms. Ferry said. “Who’s going to want to live here?”



9) Alabama Mining Strike Ends Without a Deal After Nearly Two Years

The strike at the Warrior Met Coal mine was one of the longest in U.S. history, but the price of coal soared during the walkout, giving the company leverage.

“In 2022, the strike’s first full year, Warrior Met’s annual profits rose to $641 million from $150 million in 2021; its stock price soared 143 percent during the 23-month strike. … To attract the nonunion workers, Warrior Met has been paying large bonuses of $1,900 and annual salaries of $132,000.”

By Michael Corkery, March 3, 2023


Five men standing on grass, some carrying signs declaring that they are on strike at Warrior Met Coal.
Union members picketing near one of the Warrior Met Coal Mine entrances in Brookwood, Ala., last year. Credit...Audra Melton for The New York Times

Hundreds of coal miners in Alabama have been told by their union that they can start returning to work before a contract deal has been reached, bringing an unceremonious end to one of the longest mining strikes in United States history.


The move by the United Mine Workers of America to conclude their nearly two-year work stoppage is a blow to the union, a storied and powerful labor organization, which has been pushing for higher pay and improved working conditions at the Warrior Met Coal mine, near Tuscaloosa, Ala.


The decision came after negotiating sessions between the union and the company became more infrequent in recent months, said Larry Spencer, a vice president in the United Mine Workers of America, who has helped lead the Alabama strike.


“It didn’t seem like the strike was going in the direction it needed to be,” Mr. Spencer said.


He added, “We didn’t get the exact outcome we wanted. But it showed people there is a lot of solidarity here and these guys have stuck together and that is a positive thing.”


Roughly 900 miners went out on strike on April 1, 2021, and most were able to start the process of returning to the mine this week. Some unionized workers had crossed the picket line and returned to work already, while others took jobs at other companies.


The strike was heated, with both sides accusing the other of violence and vandalism.


In a statement, a spokesman for Warrior Met said the company was working to ensure “a seamless return to work for our striking miners.” He added that “we strongly believe that partnering with the U.M.W.A. is critical to achieving our shared goal of maintaining a constructive and mutually beneficial relationship.”


Labor unions across the world voiced support for the miners, but the group failed to muster broad political support. Coal mining in the deeply red state of Alabama was not a popular cause for many prominent Democrats, who are trying to encourage less carbon-intensive industries. Most national Republicans, despite promises by former President Donald J. Trump to save the coal industry, did not publicly back the Alabama strike.


Probably the biggest factor undermining the strike was the price of coal, which soared over the course of the walkout. The Warrior Met mine produces mettalurgical coal, which is used in steel-making and is in high demand.


Cecil Roberts, president of the United Mine Workers of America, said the company was able to profitably operate the mine with relatively few nonunion replacement workers because of high coal prices.


Mr. Roberts said he expected coal prices to stay high for the foreseeable future, which could have forced the strike to drag on for several more years.


In 2022, the strike’s first full year, Warrior Met’s annual profits rose to $641 million from $150 million in 2021; its stock price soared 143 percent during the 23-month strike.


Larry Cohen, a former president of the Communications Workers of America and chairman of Our Revolution, an advocacy group started by Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, said the protracted strike showed how companies have the upper hand because they can bring in replacement workers.


“There is not a better union in the world in terms of solidarity,” Mr. Cohen said. “If this can happen at Warrior Met, it can happen anywhere.”


To attract the nonunion workers, Warrior Met has been paying large bonuses of $1,900 and annual salaries of $132,000. It’s highly lucrative pay for blue-collar work in Alabama and something that would not have happened without the strike, Mr. Roberts said.


“Ironically, the replacement workers became some of the highest-paid coal miners in the country because of us,” Mr. Roberts said, adding that he expects his union members to start receiving the same high pay when they return underground.


The union expects contract negotiations to resume in the coming weeks, after the process of returning the miners to work is complete.



10) Ohio law enforcement links Erin Brockovich to potential for 'special interest terrorism' threat in East Palestine

The report assesses the risk posed by Brockovich and activist groups in the wake of the Norfolk Southern train derailment.

By Jana Winter, Investigative Correspondent, March 2, 2023

Erin Brockovich poses with three small dogs, two of whom are Pomeranians, in a large armchair.

Activist Erin Brockovich poses at her home In Agoura Hills, Calif., on March 16, 2021. (Valerie Macon/AFP via Getty Images)

Ohio law enforcement issued a report late last month warning that events planned in East Palestine by the environmental activist Erin Brockovich could prompt a terrorist threat from violent extremists, according to an intelligence bulletin obtained by Yahoo News.


Dated Feb. 24 and distributed to law enforcement agencies by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the Ohio Statewide Terrorism Analysis & Crime Center Terrorism Analysis Unit Situational Awareness [STACC TAU] report obtained by Yahoo News "assesses that special interest extremist groups will continue to call for changes in governmental policy, which may lead to protests in/around East Palestine and/or at the Statehouse in Columbus.”


The report then singles out the reaction by Brockovich, a whistleblower who helped build a successful lawsuit against the California utility company Pacific Gas and Electric in a case involving contaminated groundwater, to the Feb. 3 train derailment and release of toxic chemicals in East Palestine.


“On 24 February, environmental activist Erin BrockovichUSPER [United States person] is scheduled to be in East Palestine to explain residents’ legal rights. Brokovich has urged the community to use common sense and ask questions. Brockovich is also placing blame solely on Norfolk Southern.The STACC TAU assess this event could potentially increase tensions within the community.”


The report assesses the risk posed by Brockovich and other activist groups that have planned events in East Palestine in the wake of the Norfolk Southern train derailment and the controlled burn of vinyl chloride, a carcinogenic ingredient used in the production of plastic products after the derailment.


“According to the FBI, special interest terrorism differs from traditional right-wing and left-wing terrorism in that extremist special interest groups seek to resolve specific issues, rather than effect widespread political change,” the report states. “Such extremists conduct acts of politically motivated violence to force segments of society, including the general public, to change attitudes about issues considered important to the extremists’ cause.”


Brockovich, who was played by the actress Julia Roberts in the 2000 film named after her, was in East Palestine on Thursday afternoon to host an event. She did not immediately respond to Yahoo News’ request for comment.


This situational awareness report is highly problematic, said former FBI agent Mike German, who worked on a recent Brennan Center report about issues with DHS fusion centers.


“Obviously, there is no reason to have included Erin Brockovich's name or a description of her advocacy in a law enforcement intelligence report, much less a ‘situational awareness’ report by a state fusion center's terrorism analysis unit,” German told Yahoo News. “Almost all of the activity described in this report is rightly protected by the First Amendment and poses no threat of harm, and therefore should be of no interest to terrorism intelligence units.”


Contacted by Yahoo News, the Ohio Department of Public Safety denied that it had issued a report identifying Brockovich as a possible terrorist threat.


“Erin Brokovich is listed as an ‘environmental activist’ and the brief mention of her falls under the heading of ‘various individuals or groups have responded to the train derailment,’” the Ohio Department of Public Safety’s Jay Carey told Yahoo News in an email. “The fact that she is an ‘environmental activist’ that has ‘responded to the train derailment’ is factual and has been well documented by media accounts. Any inference otherwise is incorrect.”


DHS posted the report on its intelligence sharing platform on Feb. 28, making it available to its more than 150,000 local, state and federal police and other partners nationwide.


“Fusion Centers are state and locally owned and operated centers that actively share, analyze, and operationalize threat-related information between federal, state, local, tribal, territorial, and private sector partners,” a DHS spokesperson said in an emailed statement to Yahoo News. “DHS supports Fusion Centers through the presence of DHS personnel and information sharing technology, but DHS does not run or operate Fusion Centers.”


The report also referred to the environmental group Earthjustice, which, it stated “called on Governor DeWineUSPER to declare a state of emergency," pointing to the "contaminated waterways" and subsequent deaths of thousands of fish.


“Earthjustice works with communities across the country to protect people’s health,” Debbie Chizewer, managing attorney for Earthjustice’s Midwest Regional office, told Yahoo News.


“In East Palestine, Earthjustice is supporting partners that have been exposed to toxic chemicals as they call for much needed resources, monitoring, cleanup of the contamination, as well as protections to prevent disasters like the explosion of a chemical-carrying cargo train in the future.”


The report obtained by Yahoo News stated that East Palestine police and fire department officials reported having received threats but had determined they were not credible. It was not clear, however, why they were mentioned in the report.


“This report should not have described any noncriminal activity, particularly after it stated that the terrorism analysis unit is ‘unaware of any credible direct threats regarding the East Palestine train derailment,’” German said. “This flawed reporting only clogs our national intelligence networks with inappropriate materials that undermine effective counterterrorism and law enforcement analysis, by overwhelming intelligence analysts with unhelpful misinformation that dulls the response to genuine threat warnings.”


Former DHS Acting Undersecretary John Cohen agreed that the inclusion of Brockovich’s name was, as he put it, “a bit problematic,” and said that law enforcement needed to be more careful in describing what is and is not considered a threat.


“When reporting on online or other activity that may be protected speech, authorities need to be very clear how that speech relates to threat-related activities or other public safety issues,” Cohen told Yahoo News. “It’s fine to catalog what different people are saying, but from a law enforcement perspective, they need to be clear where there is a nexus with the need for an operational response.”



11) Study: Extreme heat is driving deaths in US prisons

New research makes clear the link between climate change and prison mortality.

By Alleen Brown, Mar. 01, 2023

A view down a prison corridor, showing bars and cell doors.
MoreISO/Getty Images

Extreme heat is killing people in prisons across the United States, according to a new study published in the academic journal PLOS ONE. The research provides some of the first epidemiological evidence of the link between the climate crisis and prison mortality in the nation with the highest incarceration rate in the world. 

The study examined deaths in both state-run and privately run prisons during the hot summer months of June, July, and August between 2001 and 2019. Researchers found that a ten-degree temperature increase above the average correlated with a 5.2 percent increase in deaths—or a 6.7 percent increase among prisoners with heart disease. 

To Julie Skarha, the study’s lead author, who recently finished her doctorate in epidemiology at Brown University, “The biggest surprise was that the highest increase of mortality was in the Northeast,” she told Grist. The study found that a two-day heat wave meant a mortality increase of 21 percent in the Northeast, compared to 0.8 percent in the Midwest, 1.3 percent in the South, and 8.6 percent in the West.

Also startling was the link between heat and suicide in prisons nationally. In the three days following an extreme heat day, the researchers noted a 22.8 percent increase in suicides.

To the researchers as well as advocates for people who are incarcerated, the findings hint at deepened desperation among prisoners in the summer, even in states not known for their heat. To Skarha and others, the data is a call to action for policymakers. “There should be more regulation around what kind of temperatures people are exposed to in these settings,” Skarha said. “If temperature regulation isn’t happening in these settings, then they shouldn’t be operating.”

Outside of prison, people protect themselves from heat by moving to a cooler area, turning on a fan or air conditioner, taking a cool shower, or drinking water. Such options are not readily available to people in prisons.

Making matters worse, people in prison are uniquely vulnerable to heat-sensitive illness. People age more rapidly while incarcerated and are disproportionately diagnosed with diseases like diabetes. A 2016 survey found that about 43 percent of people incarcerated in state prisons had received a mental health diagnosis. A class of drugs known as psychotropics, used as a treatment for certain mental illnesses, is known to cause heat-sensitivity. 

Joseph Jackson, executive director of the Maine Prisoner Advocacy Coalition, said he was surprised to hear that death correlated with heat in Northeastern prisons. Last September, Jackson’s organization helped organize a “Stop Killing Us” rally to protest over a dozen jail and prison deaths so far that year in Maine. “We didn’t attribute them to heat,” he told Grist. However, he added, they seemed to occur disproportionately during summer.

Heat’s impact depends on how acclimated people are to the weather, helping explain the heightened Northeastern death toll. It’s also a result of the fact that the study didn’t take into account whether a facility had air conditioning. While no publicly available national data set exists that describes which prisons lack air conditioning, Northeastern prisons are likely less prepared for heat than those in the South, according to Skarha. 

Jackson, who was incarcerated for 20 years, recalled that, early in his sentence, he was placed in an old concrete and steel building with poor ventilation. “During summer, when the walls heated up, it was miserable,” he said. 

An earlier study by Skarha found that air conditioning means the difference between life and death for some prisoners in Texas. In facilities lacking air conditioning, her team estimated that more than 250 Texans died over the past two decades due to heat. Reporters at USA Today found that 44 states lack universal prison air conditioning.

The population at risk is vast and disproportionately Indigenous, Black and Latino. Over ten million people move in and out of the U.S. prison system every year, the study underlines. Meanwhile, scientists expect heatwaves to come more frequently as the climate crisis deepens, further imperiling the lives of prisoners.

Skarha said the study underestimates the impact of heat on prisons. For example, the majority of people incarcerated at the jails of New York City’s Rikers Island, which were not a part of the study, also lack air conditioning, said Julia Solomons, senior policy social worker at Bronx Defenders, a public defender nonprofit. City officials say the infrastructure is unfit to install it but plans to close the notorious jails are moving at a snail’s pace. 

“People tell us that they are suffering without access to breathable air,” she said. “Every summer we know this is coming and nothing changes.”



12) How the Fall of Roe Turned North Carolina Into an Abortion Destination

The state, which is near others with abortion bans and restrictions, has had a 37 percent rise in abortions since the constitutional right to abortion was overturned.

By Kate Kelly, March 4, 2023

An empty room filled with blue chairs in a circle and exam curtains.
North Carolina, where abortion remains legal up to 20 weeks, has become a top destination for people from states where it is banned. Credit...Desiree Rios/The New York Times

RALEIGH, N.C. — Clinic by clinic, county by county and up to the highest levels of state government, no state embodies the nation’s post-Roe upheaval like North Carolina.


In the eight months since the federal right to abortion was eliminated, leaving states free to make their own abortion laws, North Carolina, where the procedure remains legal up to 20 weeks, has become a top destination for people from states where it is banned or severely restricted. North Carolina experienced a 37 percent jump in abortions, according to WeCount, an abortion-tracking project sponsored by the Society for Family Planning, which supports abortion rights. Providers in the state performed 3,190 abortions in April 2022. That number soared to 4,360 in August, after Roe fell. It was the biggest percentage increase in any state.


The state’s abortion providers are under strain, with women sometimes having to wait a month for an appointment. In Chapel Hill, nurses at the Planned Parenthood clinic say they often pull into the parking lot to find patients sleeping in their cars. The license plates are from Tennessee, Georgia, even Texas.


The large influx of patients has energized local volunteer networks offering rides, money for clinic fees and places to stay. It has also alarmed anti-abortion activists who last June were rejoicing when the court struck down Roe v. Wade, only to later discover a surge of abortions in their state.


“Right now people are flocking here because they believe they can take the life of the unborn, and that concerns me,” said Ron Baity, a Baptist minister in Winston-Salem who is president of the anti-abortion group Return America.


The atmosphere around clinics has grown more tense as new activist groups emerge, and as more patients show up. Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, issued an executive order last year directing state officials to help ensure safety around abortion clinics.


In Raleigh, the capital, a Republican-led state legislature is now considering rolling back the threshold to around 12 weeks or less. Mr. Cooper has pledged to veto any new abortion restrictions.


Meanwhile, half a dozen counties in North Carolina’s rural Piedmont and mountain regions have voted to become “sanctuaries” for the unborn, declaring their opposition to abortion.   The designation is largely symbolic, state legal experts said, but the Personhood Alliance, which backs the movement, says such declarations send a message that can lay the political groundwork to help outlaw abortion later.


“We’re preparing for the hardest fight of our life,” said Jenny Black, chief executive of Planned Parenthood South Atlantic, which includes North Carolina. “And we’re sober about the realities of how difficult that is going to be.”


The influx of patients was unexpected in this politically polarized place, where lawmakers have been tangling over abortion for years.


The Clinic


One Thursday in early December, Dr. Jonas Swartz rapped on a side entrance to the Chapel Hill Planned Parenthood clinic. He was hoping to avoid the protesters often gathered out front, a protocol that has become second nature since he started practicing at the clinic more frequently to help meet demand.


“Who is it?” asked a voice on the inside.


“Jonas,” he said.


A staff member ushered him in.


Over the next few hours, Dr. Swartz saw patients back to back, toggling between two procedure rooms.


At midday, roughly 20 people — patients and their friends and family members — were spread out in the waiting room, many of them napping.


Planned Parenthood estimates that more than a third of its abortion patients in North Carolina are from out of state these days. But the no-show rate has also climbed.


“It’s just hard to get here,” said Dr. Swartz, a Duke Health obstetrician and gynecologist. “It’s a lot. You’ve got to arrange child care. If someone gets sick, if you lose transportation, you may just not be able to get here on the day you thought you were going to.”


The volume of patients is higher, Dr. Swartz said, and may become more difficult to handle as other Southern states consider more severe restrictions on abortion. “It sort of feels right now like the walls are closing in,” he said.


A federal judge in Texas could order the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to withdraw its approval of mifepristone, a key component in medication abortions, affecting the availability of abortion pills across the country.


Medication was the method for 59 percent of abortions performed on North Carolina residents in 2020, with surgical procedures accounting for 37 percent, according to the most recent state data.


Members of the clinic’s staff said they were anxious about the shifting legal landscape. One nurse, Caroline Christopher, wore a gold chain with a coat-hanger pendant — a homage to her grandmother, she said, who had been an activist in the 1970s and wears a matching necklace. “We’re all trying to stay positive,” she said.


Ultimately, the clinic saw two dozen patients that day. A dozen canceled. Since the fall of Roe, the site has treated up to 35 people per day.


Journals the clinic keeps in the recovery room were filled with entries about challenges the patients had faced.


“I am here from Johnson City, TN (4 hour drive) due to my state not providing the right to an abortion,” one patient wrote. “I have a 3 yr. old son, and am just now to a point in my life where I am stable enough to take care of us comfortably. Another child at this time is just not in the cards for us.”


The Divide


Last year, Tina Marshall started a new group: the Black Abortion Defense League. She was hoping to engage more Black volunteers to work with her to preserve abortion rights. On a clear January morning, Ms. Marshall stood in front of a Charlotte clinic yelling, “Baa-aaa-aaa-aaa” at anti-abortion activists, whom she likened to sheep.


Anti-abortion protesters with a group called Love Life shouted through megaphones at women approaching the clinic: “The world says it’s OK to go out and have sex with whoever you want and then just come here and take care of the problem, quote unquote!”


Ms. Marshall said she wanted to bolster participation of Black women in an issue that has an especially large effect on their lives. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for 2020, the most recent year available, showed that 52 percent of abortion recipients in North Carolina were Black, compared with 28 percent who were white. Hispanic women made up 13 percent.


The increase in out-of-state patients has supercharged the clash over abortion, activists on both sides say.


The abortion issue is more urgent than ever in North Carolina, said Philip “Flip” Benham, an anti-abortion activist, because “we’ve become sort of a destination state for abortions.”


In many ways, the scenes in front of clinics here are the same as they have been for decades: Protesters who believe abortion is murder shout through loudspeakers and film people arriving at or leaving the facilities. Volunteers use oversize umbrellas to shield patients from the protesters, who they say sometimes physically block patients entering the clinic.


In October, the Charlotte police confronted Mr. Benham over what witnesses described as his swinging a baseball bat around the driveway of the Planned Parenthood clinic. Mr. Benham was charged with undefined criminal activity, according to a police report. Mr. Benham said the charges had been dropped.


Mr. Benham isn’t focused on the legislative battles in Raleigh because he believes no laws will be changed until Mr. Cooper leaves office. “We’re winning this battle in the streets,” he said.


In June in Asheville, Mountain Area Pregnancy Services, which opposes abortion and steers women toward carrying their pregnancies to term, was defaced with red paint, its walls splattered with the message “If abortions aren’t safe, neither are you!” A center worker, Kristi Brown, said it had cost $90,000 to repair the facility and add security.


Last summer, the center received a flurry of calls from women in neighboring Tennessee and even Kentucky — states that had quickly outlawed most abortions after Roe’s overturn — who were seeking abortion appointments and didn’t realize the center doesn’t provide them, Ms. Brown said. Even as the volume of those calls diminished, the center last year had a 10 percent uptick, compared with the year before, in clients who were seeking a range of services, including counseling for patients who had already received abortions, she added.


The Battle Ahead


North Carolina’s political showdown over abortion is personified by two leaders: its Democratic governor, Mr. Cooper, and Tim Moore, the Republican speaker of the State House of Representatives.


Mr. Cooper, a former attorney general, wants to preserve the state’s current law. He has ordered additional protections, including preventing the extradition of anyone involved in carrying out an abortion that is legal in North Carolina.


But Republican dominance in the legislature means the ability to veto is Mr. Cooper’s most potent tool. “Our law is restrictive enough in North Carolina right now,” Mr. Cooper said in a February interview.


Public polling explains the state’s political friction: A recent Meredith College poll of registered voters found that 57 percent of respondents wanted to preserve North Carolina’s current abortion law or expand it beyond the 20-week limit. About 35 percent of those surveyed supported a rollback of abortion access to 15 weeks or less.


Mr. Moore has said that a ban after 12 weeks — with some exceptions — is more likely to “garner the necessary support to become law.”


Mr. Moore also said in a recent podcast that a swing Democrat, whom he declined to name, was willing to vote for a 12- or 13-week curb. That crossover is potentially significant because House Republicans are one vote shy of a supermajority that would allow them to override a veto.


For now, even North Carolina residents are feeling the effect of bans in neighboring states: When Maria, a 31-year-old who lives outside Asheville, learned that she was unexpectedly pregnant in late June, she knew a baby was more than she could handle. Maria, who did not want to reveal her full name because of her family’s opposition to abortion, was coping with depression and, she says, several other medical conditions.


She called the nearest abortion clinic, which is in Asheville. The wait, she was told, was two months. She then called two clinics in Charlotte, about a two-hour drive away. One never responded. The other said it could take her the following month. She grabbed the appointment.



13) Credit Card Points Are Being Paid For by the Poor

By Chenzi Xu and Jeffrey Reppucci, March 4, 2023

Ms. Xu is a finance professor at the Stanford Graduate School of Business. Mr. Reppucci is a candidate for a Master of Business Administration and Master of Public Policy at Stanford. 


An illustration of a sand castle and a shovel casts a shadow over a small pile of sand with a flag in it and a spoon in front of it.

Kaitlin Brito

There’s an undeniable feeling of excitement when you turn your daily credit card swipes at Starbucks into first-class airfare or a weekend jaunt to Costa Rica. Thanks to mobile banking and the ease of autopay, you can scrupulously avoid any additional costs by paying your monthly bill in full. Free flights and exclusive discounts abound.


Something for nothing, right?


Not exactly nothing. Credit card perks for educated, usually urban professionals are being subsidized by people who have less. In other words, when you book a hotel room or enjoy entry to an airport lounge at no cost, poor consumers are ultimately footing the bill.


Demand for rewards is only going up. In 2016, Chase launched its Sapphire Reserve card. The card comes with perks, bonuses and points multipliers that for big-spending travelers and diners are worth far more than its steep $550 annual fee. There was so much initial demand that Chase ran out of the metal slabs it prints the cards on. Sapphire’s enormous success set off a credit card perks war, with numerous banks flooding the market with sign-on bonuses worth thousands of dollars.


In 2022, the Federal Reserve published data showing that the cost of rewards, as a share of total transaction volume on credit cards, increased 25 percent from 2015 through 2021. This bonanza has helped affluent professionals flood Instagram with envy-inducing shots of white sand beaches, hotel suites and plush airport lounges.


But these high-income travelers are also less likely to carry balances that incur interest charges and late fees, which traditionally increase profits for card issuers. So, to offset the cost of paying lavish rewards to these consumers, banks have sought to maximize other usage-based revenues.


Enter interchange fees, or the money it costs merchants to accept noncash payments. A recent study at Stanford found that when credit card rewards increase, so do these fees.


The United States now has some of the highest credit card processing costs in the world, typically at 2 percent to 2.25 percent of every purchase. This is eight to nine times as much as the prevailing swipe fee in the European Union. The vast majority of merchants pass these costs on to consumers by charging more for their products — regardless of how one pays.


The result? Lower-income consumers are forced to pay higher prices on the goods they buy, but they rarely receive any benefit from rewards programs, according to the Federal Reserve, which has been tracking the distributional effects of card rewards. Its December 2022 report estimates an annual redistribution of $15 billion in rewards value from poorer people to richer people, from low-education people to highly educated people and from diverse communities to less diverse communities.


Put another way, credit card rewards are essentially a tax on less affluent consumers, who are much more likely to pay for their goods with cash, debit cards or standard credit products that accrue no such rewards.


According to the San Francisco Fed, Americans with annual incomes at the national median (a bit less than $70,000) use credit cards for 23 percent of purchases. The numbers drop off precipitously as income decreases. Roughly half of all households use cash or debit cards for most purchases. Households with annual incomes over $150,000 use a credit card the most frequently, or 44 percent of the time.


The poor are much less likely to have access to rewards credit cards, even if they want them. Why? Cards with the highest value rewards are often available only to the rich. First, you’ll need a credit score of at least 700 to qualify for a premium card. That eliminates half the country. And only 21 percent of Black households have FICO scores above 700. Second, issuers consider your income and debt-to-income ratio, which can be used to disqualify card applicants with high credit scores. Banks just don’t want to issue rewards-heavy cards and pay lucrative sign-on bonuses to consumers who have low credit limits and spend much less overall.


Now consider the design of these rewards programs: five times as many points on hotels, three times as many points on dining, a $300 credit to SoulCycle, a $100 credit to Saks Fifth Avenue. This generation of prestige points cards often rewards discretionary, even luxury purchases, further transferring dollars to the highest income card holders. Cash-back cards available to households with lower credit scores and incomes offer more modest rewards than their prestige alternatives do.


Visa and Mastercard operate the two largest card networks, accounting for 77 percent of about 650 million general purpose credit cards in the United States. They act as agents for thousands of banks and dictate the terms and fees that merchants must pay.


And business is booming. In 2021 these two companies generated $77 billion in credit card interchange fees, which they share with issuing banks.


The aggregate costs of credit card points, driven by Visa and Mastercard’s longstanding interchange duopoly, spurred Senators Richard Durbin, Democrat of Illinois, and Roger Marshall, Republican of Kansas, to introduce the Credit Card Competition Act last July. The House soon followed with its own bipartisan bill. Yet multiple attempts to attach the legislation to military and omnibus funding bills by year’s end failed.


The act would have forced Visa and Mastercard to compete head-to-head with other processors, reducing their overwhelming market power to set rates. Lower interchange fees can mean lower prices for consumers. (Despite expected opposition from the now-Republican-controlled House, Mr. Durbin plans to reintroduce the bill this year, his office said.)


The American Bankers Association argues that such legislation would result in net harm. It points to reductions in credit card rewards programs and hints at the creation of new fees by banks to make up the lost revenues.


The first part is certainly true; however, it’s hard to muster a defense for preserving rewards at Saks Fifth Avenue in the name of consumer welfare. The latter may also be true — and sounds like something the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau should look into.


Opponents of the bill also correctly point out that network security could suffer in the short run: Introducing smaller players and novel technologies would create vulnerabilities that hackers might exploit. Visa and Mastercard do use their systemwide scale in the name of effective fraud protection. However, the economics of competition suggest that all companies, especially Visa and Mastercard, would be heavily incentivized to innovate on network security to preserve market share against new entrants.


A problem for any reform that helps working-class families will be that consumers who enjoy great privileges from premium credit cards would end up worse off. But they would be returning economic value to working Americans, whose production and consumption sustains the economy in the first place.


And prestige card holders surely will manage. They may have hoped to use points toward an overwater villa in the Maldives. If Congress acts, they can settle for a free hotel room in Hawaii.



14) A New Front Line in the Debate Over Policing: A Forest Near Atlanta

Six weeks after a protester was shot and killed, officials are bracing for more confrontations with activists seeking to stop a police and fire training center.

By Sean Keenan and Joseph Goldstein, March 4, 2023


A photo of an individual surrounded by colorful blankets, flowers, candles and other trinkets.

A memorial for Manuel Esteban Paez Terán, 26, an environmental activist known as Tortuguita who was killed in what the police described as an exchange of gunfire. Credit...Cheney Orr/Agence France-Presse, via Getty Images

A group of people walking along a city street at night, carrying a banner that reads: “Trees give life. Police take it.”

A vigil in Atlanta after Manuel Terán was killed in January. Credit...Dustin Chambers for The New York Times

Several large gray armored vehicles driving down a dirt road, with people in camouflage gear on top.

Law enforcement officers in military-style vehicles accompanied building crews beginning to clear the woods last month in anticipation of construction. Credit...John Spink/Atlanta Journal-Constitution, via Associated Press

ATLANTA — When construction crews rolled into a patch of pine and maple trees southeast of Atlanta last month, the scene had more in common with a military incursion than a municipal building project in the suburbs. Police officers in armored trucks escorted construction workers as they cleared a pathway for heavy equipment and installed anti-erosion fences.


For 18 months, this parcel of woodland — once a prison farm for low-level convicts, now mostly reclaimed by the surrounding forest — has galvanized both environmental advocates who want to preserve one of the region’s largest remaining green spaces and activists concerned about the increased militarization and aggressive tactics of police forces.


Mounting protests and scattered violence culminated in January in what the police described as a shootout that left a protester dead, a state trooper seriously wounded and Georgia’s governor authorizing the National Guard to intervene. Now, with organizers staging mass demonstrations starting this weekend — hundreds of activists gathered on Saturday near the training site to protest the development — officials worry that confrontations may resume, and that the conflict could escalate.


The tension was sparked by a plan, authorized by the Atlanta City Council in 2021, to build an enormous training center for the city’s Police and Fire Departments on property owned by Atlanta in DeKalb County. Blueprints for the 85-acre complex include classrooms, an amphitheater, a driving course, a shooting range, pastureland for police horses and what is described by supporters as a “mock city for real-world training” that includes apartments, a nightclub and a convenience store.


Opponents deride it as “Cop City.”


Protests against police violence have been a feature of big-city life in the near decade since the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., and the chokehold death of Eric Garner on a Staten Island sidewalk, which galvanized a movement. The demonstrations have often erupted after a police killing of a Black man and the release of video, such as in the fatal beating of Tyre Nichols in January, which led to five Memphis officers being charged with murder.


What is happening in Atlanta, according to some experts, is different: It is a movement squarely confronting the police over their training, and questioning how much support cities should provide to law enforcement. These issues have become increasingly fraught as police forces adopt military-inspired tactics and equipment, and as widely publicized incidents like the Nichols beating appear to show officers escalating routine interactions into deadly violence.


“Very rarely do you see the flash point be about training,” said Arthur Rizer, a former police officer in Washington State and a scholar of policing. Like many of the critics and protesters, he thinks Atlanta’s plan for the training facility is a recipe for increased police militarization — a trend that accelerated after the Sept. 11 attacks with the infusion of surplus military equipment and antiterrorism money and thinking.


“I do share the concern of the citizens of Atlanta,” Mr. Rizer said, “that the apparent focus is going to be a paramilitary-type training, urban assault tactics, which quite frankly have not been effective at reducing crime.”


Atlanta officials say that for years, the police have run their academy out of old school buildings or, more recently, a college, and have needed a more modern facility. And the Fire Department has long wanted to teach rookies how to drive fire engines on a training track, instead of on city streets at night.


Bryan Thomas, a spokesman for Atlanta’s mayor, Andre Dickens, said the center — approved under Mr. Dickens’s predecessor, Keisha Lance Bottoms, who joined the Biden administration after deciding not to run for re-election — was designed to help officers train for situations that have become increasingly common in modern America, such as convenience store robberies and mass shootings.


“We need to make sure officers are prepared for real-life scenarios, like if you have a shooting in a nightclub or a gas station,” he said. “And that’s where this facility comes in.”


Other cities operate large police training complexes, including New York, where Rodman’s Neck — part of a peninsula sticking out from the Bronx into Long Island Sound — is used for firearms training, much to the annoyance of nearby residents on City Island, who say the regular barrages of gunfire are a source of stress.


The Atlanta plan has drawn a broad “Stop Cop City” coalition, including criminal justice reformers, environmental advocates, antifa activists and others. Their objectives are both to oppose what they call the further militarization of policing and to preserve the nearly 400 forested acres near a predominately Black neighborhood in DeKalb County called Gresham Park.


“Environmental racism and police violence go hand in hand,” said Kate Morales, who has helped organize the upcoming “week of action,” including a comedy show and music festival in the woods, and guided forest tours. Organizers were encouraging demonstrators to camp and “get to know the forest.”


As months of protests grew increasingly tense in January — activists have thrown Molotov cocktails and destroyed construction equipment, the police say — an attempt by officials to clear out the forest ended in what the authorities described as an exchange of gunfire. A protester, Manuel Esteban Paez Terán, 26, was killed, and a state trooper seriously wounded.


Before January, some protesters, calling themselves “forest defenders,” had taken to sleeping in crude tree houses in land marked for clearing. Prosecutors charged some protesters with domestic terrorism, a move that some legal experts described as heavy handed, given that those charges, under state guidelines, can carry a prison sentence of up to 35 years.


Anthony Michael Kreis, a law professor at Georgia State University, noted that plenty of laws would allow the government “to prosecute wrongdoing like property destruction without citing terrorism and imposing outsized punishments.” He said such charges “chill group protest if peaceful protesters fear that they could be deemed guilty for associating with an event where a few bad apples are suddenly branded as domestic terrorists.”


Opposition to the Atlanta project grew out of reserves of anger over the 2020 murder of George Floyd by police officers in Minneapolis and the fatal police shooting weeks later of Rayshard Brooks in Atlanta, as well as concerns that the city’s famed tree canopy was dwindling.


For years, a plan had been slowly advancing to connect patches of remaining woodland into a giant 1,200-acre park, larger than Central Park in New York. The decision in 2021 to put a large police training facility in the midst of it struck many as gutting the park plan and providing a giveaway to the police.


“These are the last large swaths of undeveloped forest” in the region, said Ted Terry, a DeKalb County commissioner who used to lead the Georgia chapter of the Sierra Club, an environmental organization. “If we lose these acres, it cannot be reversed.”


Critics in Atlanta also say officials have insulated the project from public outcry by outsourcing it to the Atlanta Police Foundation, a nonprofit organization that has wealthy business executives on its board, and that is raising most of the anticipated $90 million for the training site.


Rob Baskin, a spokesman for the foundation, said it had become involved because for years, successive mayors and police chiefs had said the city urgently needed a new training center and had asked the foundation to take the lead in drawing up plans. “The whole purpose we have in building this facility is to make sure our officers are well trained,” Mr. Baskin said.


Mr. Thomas, the spokesman for the city’s mayor, said the Atlanta police were committed to “community-based policing and de-escalation techniques.” But plans for the mock city have exacerbated fears that much of the training will focus on tactics for armed confrontations, rather than how to reduce reliance on deadly force.


The scenes of armored trucks and officers with long guns moving into the construction site have only reinforced those concerns.


“The militarization of the last 20 years or so has done more to worsen the relationship with the community,” said Richard Rose, president of the Atlanta chapter of the N.A.A.C.P. “The armored trucks, the different uniforms, the humongous guns — all of those strike fear into the heart of the community, even if you are a law-abiding citizen.”


The 26-year-old protester who was killed in January was known by fellow “forest defenders” as Tortuguita, or “Little Turtle,” and dreamed of becoming a doctor, but felt compelled to join the effort to save the woodlands for both political and spiritual reasons, the protester’s mother, Belkis Terán, recalled recently in an interview.


The Georgia Bureau of Investigation, which is looking into the shooting, has said that on Jan. 18, as the police sought to clear the forest of protesters, Tortuguita fired first “without warning,” striking a trooper. Officers returned fire, according to the authorities.


Tortuguita’s mother described her child as a “pacifist” and said an independent autopsy showed 13 gunshot wounds. Activists question the authorities’ account of what happened and have demanded an independent investigation.


Tortuguita’s mother said her child “wanted to be in the forest” and was “feeling God there.” She hoped, she said, that her child’s death was not in vain.