Bay Area United Against War Newsletter, March 13, 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




Daniel Ellsberg Continues the Fight

Message sent by Kip Waldo


(Message from Daniel Ellsberg Below)


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Message from Daniel Ellsberg


Dear friends and supporters,


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Love, Dan


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





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) U.S. to Challenge Mexican Ban on Genetically Modified Corn

The Biden administration said it would request talks with Mexico over a brewing trade fight.

By Ana Swanson and Linda Qiu, March 6, 2023


Mexico bought more than 20 million metric tons of corn from the United States in 2021-22, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Farmers in Mexico grew 27.3 million metric tons last year.
Mexico bought more than 20 million metric tons of corn from the United States in 2021-22, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Farmers in Mexico grew 27.3 million metric tons last year. Credit...Dane Rhys/Reuters

WASHINGTON — The Biden administration said on Monday that it would take initial steps toward challenging a ban that Mexico has placed on shipments of genetically modified corn from the United States, restrictions that have rankled farmers and threatened a profitable export.


Mexico has planned to phase out the use of genetically modified corn, as well as an herbicide called glyphosate, by 2024. About 90 percent of corn grown in the United States is genetically modified.


Senior administration officials have expressed concerns to the Mexican government about the measures for more than a year in virtual and in-person meetings, saying they could disrupt millions of dollars of agricultural trade and cause serious harm to U.S. producers. Mexico is the second largest market for U.S. corn, after China.


On Monday, U.S. officials said that they were requesting consultations over the issue with their Mexican counterparts under the terms of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, which governs the terms of trade in North America. Biden officials said that parties to that agreement, which was signed in 2020, had committed to base their regulation on science, and that Mexico’s ban on genetically modified corn did not conform to those promises.


The consultations are the first step in a process that could lead to the United States bringing a formal dispute against Mexico. The parties must meet to discuss the issue within 30 days and, if the talks are not successful, the United States could turn to a separate dispute settlement procedure under the trade agreement. That process that could potentially result in the United States placing tariffs on Mexican products, if no other resolution can be reached.


Senior officials with the Office of the United States Trade Representative said they were focused on finding a resolution through the talks at hand. But in a statement, the office said that it would “consider all options, including taking formal steps to enforce U.S. rights under the USMCA” if the issue was not resolved.


Mexico bought more than 20 million metric tons of corn from the United States in the 2021-22 marketing year, which runs from September to August, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.


The National Corn Growers Association has said that the impending ban would be “catastrophic” for American corn producers and Mexican consumers alike and undermine the principles of the trade agreement. The industry has maintained that bioengineered corn is safe for human consumption, contrary to health concerns cited by Mexican officials.


It is illegal to grow genetically modified corn in Mexico, where maize was first domesticated 8,700 years ago and where white corn is a staple crop. Environmental groups and some farmers in Mexico worry that any imports of bioengineered corn would threaten native species, as the varieties can cross-pollinate.


The Mexican government in February moved to soften its restrictions, by saying it would allow genetically modified corn to be brought into the country for animal feed and industrial use, though not for human consumption. Tom Vilsack, the U.S. agriculture secretary, said he was “disappointed” in the decision.


It also remains to be seen whether domestic corn production in Mexican is sufficient to replace imports, the eventual goal of the Mexican government. Last year, farmers in Mexico grew 27.3 million metric tons, about 38 percent below domestic demand. One analysis projected that corn costs could rise by 20 percent in Mexico and increase rates of food insecurity should the ban remain in place.



2) ‘This is how I’m going to die’: police swarm activists protesting ‘Cop City’ in ‘week of action’

Hours of chaos as officers descended upon forest, seeking activists protesting $90m police and fire department training center

By Timothy Pratt, March 7, 2023

activists march against Cop City

The ‘Cop City’ project had been opposed even before police killed activist Manuel Paez Terán in January. Photograph: Steve Eberhardt/Zuma Press  Wire/Rex/Shutterstock

“Check their shoes and look for mud!” shouted one Atlanta police department officer to another.


The sun was setting against a tree line growing greener daily due to recent balmy, spring-like weather in Atlanta, but the bucolic setting of a Sunday in the sun at a free music festival abruptly became panic and chaos.


Dozens of law enforcement officers, many with automatic weapons, swarmed into a forest of hundreds of acres, seeking to find any of the 200 or so activists who had set fire to a bulldozer, trailer and other infrastructure used for construction on “Cop City”, a $90m, 85-acre police and fire department training center, about an hour earlier.


The clash was just the latest dramatic chapter to hit the Cop City project, which has already seen one environmental activist shot dead by police – the first incident of its kind in the US – and drawn national and international attention to the fight to save the Georgia forest where the giant project is planned.


The one officer’s frenzied order about dirty footwear seemed as absurd as any part of the Sunday night operation, since Georgia rains had left muddy patches all over the forest, and at least 600 people were lying on the grass, or camped among the trees, or entering the forest to catch an evening’s music under the stars or leaving – thus many had mud on their shoes.


But such was the situation on Sunday night, on the second night of the fifth “week of action” by activists over the last year dedicated to protecting the land called South River forest on municipal maps and Weelaunee forest by activists – using the Muscogee (Creek) word for “brown water”.


The scene included police running through trees, arresting a legal observer from the National Lawyers Guild, sending a negotiator to agree on terms with five randomly chosen individuals for letting about a hundred music festival audience members safely leave the forest, and detaining journalists for questioning on “what they were there to cover”.


The first two days had included free music, herbal workshops and a peaceful march through neighborhoods surrounding the forest south-east of Atlanta. Then, around 5.30 on Sunday evening, about 200 activists, most in balaclavas and camouflage clothing, began lining up to the right of the stage. They marched around three sides of the audience, chanting “Viva Tortuguita” – a reference to Manuel Paez Terán, a 26-year-old activist who was camping several hundred feet away from that spot on 18 January when police shot and killed him in another raid. It was the first time police killed an environmental activist while protesting in US history. Authorities said that Paez Terán fired first.



After several hours of chaos on Sunday night, 23 people – including a legal observer with the National Lawyers Guild – had been arrested and charged with “domestic terrorism” under state law, adding to the 18 defendants facing the same unprecedented charges who have been arrested in recent months.


Police officers had also threatened to arrest the hundred or so people who were lolling about in the field and listening to music only hours earlier if some agreement couldn’t be reached for their evacuation, said Jeff Simms, a retired federal endangered species biologist who was there.


Simms – who had come to the forest from Tucson, Arizona, to spend the week camping in the forest with his 21-year-old daughter, Alyssa – found the two of them thrust into unexpected positions as members of a five-person negotiating team on Sunday night.


Simms had watched dozens of police officers entering the forest from various sides and thought: “We’re all going to jail.”


He had spent one night camped in what is technically called Intrenchment Creek park. At least 85 acres of the forest is under threat from the construction of Cop City and another 40 acres is under threat from Ryan Millsap, former owner of Blackhall Studios, who made a deal with DeKalb county in 2020 to swap the land, in use as a public park, for another piece of land nearby. That deal is on hold due to a local environmental group’s lawsuit, and residents of surrounding neighborhoods continue to use the park for recreation.


The two parts of the forest are divided by a stream, Intrenchment Creek. The pair of threats to the forest led dozens of “forest defenders” to camp in the woods on both sides of the creek starting in late 2021. After Tortuguita’s death, hundreds recently began camping on the park side again – where all the arrests on Sunday were made.



On Sunday night, even as music continued on stage – mostly soft folk tunes, Simms said – police formed a line on the field. One had an AR-15 assault-type rifle, he said. Another announced on a bullhorn that they had a negotiator, and asked for five people to step forward.


“My daughter and I went, along with three others, and we all took turns speaking,” the 61-year-old said. The officer assured the team that they weren’t setting a trap, and said the crowd, which included at least one elementary school-aged child, would have 10 minutes to clear the field – or “we will arrest you for domestic terrorism”, Simms said the police told him.


“We told them the musicians had equipment, people had gear and bags, and we’d need at least 15 minutes,” Simms said. Then “I went back and told them, ‘We’re not gonna make it in 15.’”


The group of five spoke to the crowd and helped arrange transportation out of the forest for those who hadn’t arrived in their own cars. Organizers on stage urged them to “stay together. They can’t arrest us all,” Alyssa said.


Eventually, the crowd was able to leave – even as officers in other parts of the forest were attempting to find, and arrest, anyone who had participated in vandalizing the construction equipment.


Simms and his daughter returned to the forest on Monday, to camp for the rest of the week. “I want to take notes about the biology of this forest,” he said. “I came here to do that.” The Center for Biological Diversity, a national organization, recently issued a statement calling for protecting the forest due to its biological and ecological importance.


Mariah Parker, a union organizer, rapper and former Athens-Clarke county commissioner, went to the forest for the first time on Sunday. She had already been public in her opposition to the Cop City project for months, based on concerns about the increasing militarization of police and mass incarceration, particularly in Black communities.


After spending an afternoon in the forest and at the music festival, she said: “It was so beautiful – seeing people building community. I was feeling excited for what this space could be, what kind of a world we could really have.” Parker, who is Black, had met a Black mother and her two children who lives near the forest, other rap artists, and local community gardeners and teachers.


She left at about 5.30pm – right before activists entered the training center construction site. Several hours later, friends in the forest texted her, frightened. “People were hiding in the woods, and not sure how to get out – and they weren’t even involved [in the vandalism],” she said.


Several of Parker’s friends were Black. For them, she said, “it must have been one of the worst moments of their lives, not being able to leave, or know what would happen. Particularly for Black folks, it must have felt like, ‘This is how I’m going to die.’”



3) Why Is the E.P.A. So Timid in the East Palestine Train Disaster?

By Judith Enck, March 8, 2023

Ms. Enck is a former regional administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. 

A person watches from a street lined with houses as column of black smoke rises in the distance.
Smoke from the controlled burn of chemicals from the Norfolk Southern train that derailed in East Palestine, Ohio. Credit...Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

When a Norfolk Southern train carrying nearly 116,000 gallons of vinyl chloride derailed in East Palestine, Ohio, last month, local officials made a pivotal decision: to drain the highly toxic chemical into a ditch and set it on fire in a “controlled burn” to avoid a catastrophic explosion.


Officials didn’t mention that the plume could rain dioxins and other enduring poisons down on the community and others downwind. And two days after the burn, residents in the one-by-two-mile evacuation zone were allowed back into their homes — before any testing for dioxins and other contaminants on the surfaces inside had been done.


Dioxins are some of the most potent carcinogens on earth — there’s no “safe” dose for humans, and pregnant women and young children are especially vulnerable to their effects.


But even now, a month after the derailment, the people of East Palestine don’t have solid information about the risks they and their families face — whether they have already been exposed, what they should be doing to avoid future exposure and whether they just need to move.


Why would the Environmental Protection Agency allow this horrific situation to continue? It should have ordered comprehensive testing the very day of the burn. It should have told residents, especially pregnant women and families with young children, not to return home until it was safe to do so. Instead, it timidly stood back, leaving local authorities, corporate interests and rumors to fill the void.


In lieu of a comprehensive plan, the E.P.A. appears to be playing a game of crisis whack-a-mole, waiting and then responding to the news cycle. This is no way to safeguard our communities.


In a situation like this, the E.P.A. should immediately conduct authoritative tests and come up with a plan to address any dangers, and communicate all of it loudly and clearly to the affected communities. Instead it waited a full month, and then asked Norfolk Southern to test for dioxins and come up with a plan.


This is a terrible approach. Not only are the interests of a company accused of polluting quite obviously distinct from those of the public, but giving a nongovernmental entity responsibility for these steps means more time will be lost in an additional layer of review and approval.


There have been other troublesome missteps and delays. Residents were most at risk during, and immediately following, the moment the large toxic cloud spread across the community. Yet the E.P.A. waited until just a few days ago to announce that residents living within one mile of the train derailment could get money to relocate temporarily. Weeks after the evacuation order was lifted, residents were offered commercial cleaning inside their homes, long after many cleaned on their own. That, too, should have happened on Day 1.


Many of these failures most likely happened because the E.P.A. deferred too much to the less experienced Ohio E.P.A. That agency answers to Gov. Mike DeWine, who since the beginning has not seemed to grasp the seriousness of the situation.


But by acting as a reluctant regulator, the E.P.A. has left the residents of East Palestine and the surrounding areas desperate for answers. In a recent community meeting, residents demanded more information. These are people who are concerned for their health, the safety of their own homes and the well-being of their children. They deserve better.


I proudly served as an E.P.A. regional administrator during the Obama administration. And I saw the consequences of the agency’s culture of deferring to states, including states with lax environmental enforcement. It happened in Flint, Mich., where residents were left to continue drinking lead-contaminated water while the E.P.A. waited for the state to act. It was only when the public spoke out and the national press started paying attention that the E.P.A. finally stepped up.


You can see this excessive deference in nonemergency situations, too, in Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas. In these states, the E.P.A. has stood by for decades as serial polluters pumped contaminants into the air and the water in communities where petrochemicals are manufactured. According to E.P.A. records, people in Louisiana and Texas were breathing in air with more toxic chemicals than the residents of any other part of the country. Yet the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality approved permits for a giant Formosa Plastics complex in St. James Parish, and the E.P.A. did nothing publicly to oppose them. (The permits were later thrown out by a judge, but that ruling has been appealed.) Time and time again, the state has failed its people and the E.P.A. hasn’t done enough to step in.


The E.P.A. needs to take two actions now.


First, it needs to conduct comprehensive environmental testing for dioxins in and around East Palestine. It has been testing for what it calls indicator chemicals — used to assess potential exposure to toxic substances — and has stated that the results “suggest a low probability for release of dioxin from this incident.” Let’s hope that is true — but why spend time on indicator chemicals when the E.P.A. knows how to test directly for dioxins?


Second, the E.P.A. needs to establish federally funded medical monitoring for everyone along the plume. Even those who appear healthy now should be offered baseline testing.


There is much to do. But the E.P.A. can’t do it without more people and money. After years of funding cuts, the agency is down to 15,115 employees this year, from 18,110 in 1999. For effective enforcement of our environmental laws, Congress needs to approve more funding for this crucial agency.


Whether you live in a blue, red or purple state, the E.P.A. should work aggressively to protect your health and the health of your families during environmental emergencies. The people of East Palestine and their neighbors have been through a lot. The E.P.A. will need to work hard to regain their trust.



4) Memphis to Release More Findings From Tyre Nichols Investigation

The city will post 20 hours of additional video and audio from the night five officers brutally beat Mr. Nichols, as well as details about charges in the case.

By Jessica Jaglois and Emily Cochrane, March 8, 2023


A neighborhood street corner where stuffed animals, balloons and candles are piled underneath two street signs.
A memorial for Tyre Nichols at the corner in Memphis where police officers beat him. Credit...Desiree Rios/The New York Times

MEMPHIS — Two months after Tyre Nichols was brutally beaten by a group of Memphis police officers, city officials are preparing to release about 20 hours of additional video and audio that could provide more details about what happened on that night in early January.


The public release of the footage, expected as early as Wednesday afternoon, comes after the city announced Tuesday that it had concluded administrative investigations into a total of 13 Memphis police officers and four Fire Department employees. At a City Council meeting on Tuesday, Jennifer A. Sink, the chief legal officer for the city of Memphis, said that a seventh officer, as yet unidentified, had been fired, in addition to the six whose firings were previously announced.


Three other officers have been suspended without pay, she said, and one retired ahead of a disciplinary hearing. Two officers had their administrative charges dismissed.


Within the Fire Department, two E.M.T.s and a lieutenant were fired, while a fourth employee was suspended, Ms. Sink said at the meeting. Details of the charges and disciplinary decisions that were not previously announced are expected to be released along with the new video footage and audio, she said.


Mr. Nichols, a 29-year-old FedEx worker and aspiring photographer, died three days after five officers repeatedly kicked, punched and beat him with a baton after pulling him over on the night of Jan. 7. The violence and callousness, captured on camera and released almost three weeks later shocked Memphis residents and people across the nation; it also exposed a pattern of intimidation and brutality within the ranks of officers tasked with protecting the public.


The city has not released footage of the police stopping Mr. Nichols, who was Black, as he was driving home. Police officers initially said Mr. Nichols was driving recklessly, but some of the officers who pulled him over and chased him did not turn on their body cameras or removed them during the encounter — a policy violation — according to police records.


The hour of body camera and surveillance footage released in late January instead showed in graphic detail how the stop became violent as five officers, all Black men, forced Mr. Nichols from his car and threatened him, even though he did not appear to resist them. After one officer launched pepper spray at his face, Mr. Nichols broke away and ran toward his family’s home nearby.


When officers caught up with Mr. Nichols soon after, they beat him for three minutes as he screamed for his mother and attempted to shield himself from their blows. According to internal affairs documents, one officer, Demetrius Haley, took a photo of Mr. Nichols, bloodied and propped up against a car, and sent it to at least five people.


Mr. Nichols died three days after arriving at the hospital in critical condition.


Prosecutors previously charged the five officers — Mr. Haley, Tadarrius Bean, Emmitt Martin III, Desmond Mills Jr. and Justin Smith — with second-degree murder, as well as official misconduct, official oppression and kidnapping. At a hearing last month, each man pleaded not guilty to the charges.


A state agency is also reviewing a request that all five men be permanently prevented from working as police officers elsewhere in the state, after the Memphis Police Department fired them shortly after Mr. Nichols’s death.


A sixth officer, Preston Hemphill, was fired in late January, after he was found to have fired a Taser at Mr. Nichols as he fled from the initial encounter with the officers. Mr. Hemphill, who is white, has not been charged with a crime, but the police department has asked that he, like the others, be banned from working for any Tennessee police force.


The other seven officers and four Fire Department employees have also not been charged with a crime, though they faced internal investigations. Two E.M.T.s, Robert Long and JaMichael Sandridge, as well as a lieutenant, Michelle Whitaker, all of whom responded to the scene of the beating, were fired on Jan. 30. Officials said Ms. Whitaker did not get out of the fire truck, while Mr. Long and Mr. Sandridge waited 19 minutes to give care to Mr. Nichols.


City, police and fire department officials have pledged to take additional steps, including toughening city ordinances that help govern the police department. The Scorpion unit — the high-profile specialized unit the five officers belonged to — has been disbanded, and the leaders of both the police and fire department have said they will work to overhaul the culture of their respective agencies.


The Justice Department on Wednesday morning confirmed that it would examine the Memphis Police Department’s practices and its use of force, specialized unit and de-escalation tactics, reviewing policies, training and data. Separately, the agency also plans to create a guide for mayors and police chiefs “to help them assess the appropriateness of the use of specialized units.”


Both Mayor Jim Strickland and Cerelyn Davis, the police chief, had requested the investigation into the Police Department.  


At Tuesday’s meeting, Ms. Sink did not explain what led to the charges against the remaining group of police and fire department employees, who have not yet been publicly identified, or why their punishments varied. But she previously told the City Council that the investigation had extended beyond officers who were physically present at the scene.


“We get one shot — one shot to do this,” she told the council in late February.


On Tuesday, she said all the officers who had struck or aimed a Taser at Mr. Nichols had been fired in January. One person who was suspended without pay, she added, placed his hands on Mr. Nichols’s legs “at the tail end” of the encounter.


“But that was not a strike or an assault,” Ms. Sink told the City Council.


Council members appeared incensed to learn that one police officer, facing administrative charges, retired before a hearing could be scheduled and before he could still receive a pension. At the hearing, which Ms. Sink said took place despite his retirement, officials said the recommendation would have been to fire the officer.


“It’s upsetting,” said JB Smiley Jr., the vice chairman of the Memphis City Council. Referring to the fact that Mr. Nichols’s mother and stepfather are Memphis taxpayers, he added: “I just don’t like the fact that his parents essentially is paying this officer to go on and live. That’s troubling. We have to find ways to to fix that.”


All of the disciplined officers will be able to appeal. On Friday, Mr. Long, one of the E.M.T.s who had his license suspended, had an initial hearing to challenge the suspension of his license, telling officials that the police officers that night were “impeding patient care” and refused to remove Mr. Nichols’s handcuffs.



5) Why Poverty Persists in America

A Pulitzer Prize-winning sociologist offers a new explanation for an intractable problem.

By Matthew Desmond, March 9, 2023


A black-and-white photograph of a man with signs draped over his body. They read "Unfair labor practice strike." In the background, over an American flag on a fence, another sign reads "We make steel for you. Don't steal jobs from us."
A steelworker on strike in Philadelphia in 1992. Credit...Stephen Shames

A color photograph from a low angle of a group of protesters holding red, white and black signs.
A protest outside an Amazon facility in San Bernardino, Calif., in 2022. Credit...Irfan Khan/Getty Images

In the past 50 years, scientists have mapped the entire human genome and eradicated smallpox. Here in the United States, infant-mortality rates and deaths from heart disease have fallen by roughly 70 percent, and the average American has gained almost a decade of life. Climate change was recognized as an existential threat. The internet was invented.


On the problem of poverty, though, there has been no real improvement — just a long stasis. As estimated by the federal government’s poverty line, 12.6 percent of the U.S. population was poor in 1970; two decades later, it was 13.5 percent; in 2010, it was 15.1 percent; and in 2019, it was 10.5 percent. To graph the share of Americans living in poverty over the past half-century amounts to drawing a line that resembles gently rolling hills. The line curves slightly up, then slightly down, then back up again over the years, staying steady through Democratic and Republican administrations, rising in recessions and falling in boom years.


What accounts for this lack of progress? It cannot be chalked up to how the poor are counted: Different measures spit out the same embarrassing result. When the government began reporting the Supplemental Poverty Measure in 2011, designed to overcome many of the flaws of the Official Poverty Measure, including not accounting for regional differences in costs of living and government benefits, the United States officially gained three million more poor people. Possible reductions in poverty from counting aid like food stamps and tax benefits were more than offset by recognizing how low-income people were burdened by rising housing and health care costs.


Any fair assessment of poverty must confront the breathtaking march of material progress. But the fact that standards of living have risen across the board doesn’t mean that poverty itself has fallen. Forty years ago, only the rich could afford cellphones. But cellphones have become more affordable over the past few decades, and now most Americans have one, including many poor people. This has led observers like Ron Haskins and Isabel Sawhill, senior fellows at the Brookings Institution, to assert that “access to certain consumer goods,” like TVs, microwave ovens and cellphones, shows that “the poor are not quite so poor after all.”


No, it doesn’t. You can’t eat a cellphone. A cellphone doesn’t grant you stable housing, affordable medical and dental care or adequate child care. In fact, as things like cellphones have become cheaper, the cost of the most necessary of life’s necessities, like health care and rent, has increased. From 2000 to 2022 in the average American city, the cost of fuel and utilities increased by 115 percent. The American poor, living as they do in the center of global capitalism, have access to cheap, mass-produced goods, as every American does. But that doesn’t mean they can access what matters most. As Michael Harrington put it 60 years ago: “It is much easier in the United States to be decently dressed than it is to be decently housed, fed or doctored.”


Why, then, when it comes to poverty reduction, have we had 50 years of nothing? When I first started looking into this depressing state of affairs, I assumed America’s efforts to reduce poverty had stalled because we stopped trying to solve the problem. I bought into the idea, popular among progressives, that the election of President Ronald Reagan (as well as that of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in the United Kingdom) marked the ascendancy of market fundamentalism, or “neoliberalism,” a time when governments cut aid to the poor, lowered taxes and slashed regulations. If American poverty persisted, I thought, it was because we had reduced our spending on the poor. But I was wrong.


Reagan expanded corporate power, deeply cut taxes on the rich and rolled back spending on some antipoverty initiatives, especially in housing. But he was unable to make large-scale, long-term cuts to many of the programs that make up the American welfare state. Throughout Reagan’s eight years as president, antipoverty spending grew, and it continued to grow after he left office. Spending on the nation’s 13 largest means-tested programs — aid reserved for Americans who fall below a certain income level — went from $1,015 a person the year Reagan was elected president to $3,419 a person one year into Donald Trump’s administration, a 237 percent increase.


Most of this increase was due to health care spending, and Medicaid in particular. But even if we exclude Medicaid from the calculation, we find that federal investments in means-tested programs increased by 130 percent from 1980 to 2018, from $630 to $1,448 per person.


“Neoliberalism” is now part of the left’s lexicon, but I looked in vain to find it in the plain print of federal budgets, at least as far as aid to the poor was concerned. There is no evidence that the United States has become stingier over time. The opposite is true.


This makes the country’s stalled progress on poverty even more baffling. Decade after decade, the poverty rate has remained flat even as federal relief has surged.


If we have more than doubled government spending on poverty and achieved so little, one reason is that the American welfare state is a leaky bucket. Take welfare, for example: When it was administered through the Aid to Families With Dependent Children program, almost all of its funds were used to provide single-parent families with cash assistance. But when President Bill Clinton reformed welfare in 1996, replacing the old model with Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), he transformed the program into a block grant that gives states considerable leeway in deciding how to distribute the money. As a result, states have come up with rather creative ways to spend TANF dollars. Arizona has used welfare money to pay for abstinence-only sex education. Pennsylvania diverted TANF funds to anti-abortion crisis-pregnancy centers. Maine used the money to support a Christian summer camp. Nationwide, for every dollar budgeted for TANF in 2020, poor families directly received just 22 cents.


A fair amount of government aid earmarked for the poor never reaches them. But this does not fully solve the puzzle of why poverty has been so stubbornly persistent, because many of the country’s largest social-welfare programs distribute funds directly to people. Roughly 85 percent of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program budget is dedicated to funding food stamps themselves, and almost 93 percent of Medicaid dollars flow directly to beneficiaries.


There are, it would seem, deeper structural forces at play, ones that have to do with the way the American poor are routinely taken advantage of. The primary reason for our stalled progress on poverty reduction has to do with the fact that we have not confronted the unrelenting exploitation of the poor in the labor, housing and financial markets.


As a theory of poverty, “exploitation” elicits a muddled response, causing us to think of course and but, no in the same instant. The word carries a moral charge, but social scientists have a fairly coolheaded way to measure exploitation: When we are underpaid relative to the value of what we produce, we experience labor exploitation; when we are overcharged relative to the value of something we purchase, we experience consumer exploitation. For example, if a family paid $1,000 a month to rent an apartment with a market value of $20,000, that family would experience a higher level of renter exploitation than a family who paid the same amount for an apartment with a market valuation of $100,000. When we don’t own property or can’t access credit, we become dependent on people who do and can, which in turn invites exploitation, because a bad deal for you is a good deal for me.


Our vulnerability to exploitation grows as our liberty shrinks. Because undocumented workers are not protected by labor laws, more than a third are paid below minimum wage, and nearly 85 percent are not paid overtime. Many of us who are U.S. citizens, or who crossed borders through official checkpoints, would not work for these wages. We don’t have to. If they migrate here as adults, those undocumented workers choose the terms of their arrangement. But just because desperate people accept and even seek out exploitative conditions doesn’t make those conditions any less exploitative. Sometimes exploitation is simply the best bad option.


Consider how many employers now get one over on American workers. The United States offers some of the lowest wages in the industrialized world. A larger share of workers in the United States make “low pay” — earning less than two-thirds of median wages — than in any other country belonging to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. According to the group, nearly 23 percent of American workers labor in low-paying jobs, compared with roughly 17 percent in Britain, 11 percent in Japan and 5 percent in Italy. Poverty wages have swollen the ranks of the American working poor, most of whom are 35 or older.


One popular theory for the loss of good jobs is deindustrialization, which caused the shuttering of factories and the hollowing out of communities that had sprung up around them. Such a passive word, “deindustrialization” — leaving the impression that it just happened somehow, as if the country got deindustrialization the way a forest gets infested by bark beetles. But economic forces framed as inexorable, like deindustrialization and the acceleration of global trade, are often helped along by policy decisions like the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement, which made it easier for companies to move their factories to Mexico and contributed to the loss of hundreds of thousands of American jobs. The world has changed, but it has changed for other economies as well. Yet Belgium and Canada and many other countries haven’t experienced the kind of wage stagnation and surge in income inequality that the United States has.


Those countries managed to keep their unions. We didn’t. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, nearly a third of all U.S. workers carried union cards. These were the days of the United Automobile Workers, led by Walter Reuther, once savagely beaten by Ford’s brass-knuckle boys, and of the mighty American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations that together represented around 15 million workers, more than the population of California at the time.


In their heyday, unions put up a fight. In 1970 alone, 2.4 million union members participated in work stoppages, wildcat strikes and tense standoffs with company heads. The labor movement fought for better pay and safer working conditions and supported antipoverty policies. Their efforts paid off for both unionized and nonunionized workers, as companies like Eastman Kodak were compelled to provide generous compensation and benefits to their workers to prevent them from organizing. By one estimate, the wages of nonunionized men without a college degree would be 8 percent higher today if union strength remained what it was in the late 1970s, a time when worker pay climbed, chief-executive compensation was reined in and the country experienced the most economically equitable period in modern history.


It is important to note that Old Labor was often a white man’s refuge. In the 1930s, many unions outwardly discriminated against Black workers or segregated them into Jim Crow local chapters. In the 1960s, unions like the Brotherhood of Railway and Steamship Clerks and the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America enforced segregation within their ranks. Unions harmed themselves through their self-defeating racism and were further weakened by a changing economy. But organized labor was also attacked by political adversaries. As unions flagged, business interests sensed an opportunity. Corporate lobbyists made deep inroads in both political parties, beginning a public-relations campaign that pressured policymakers to roll back worker protections.


A national litmus test arrived in 1981, when 13,000 unionized air traffic controllers left their posts after contract negotiations with the Federal Aviation Administration broke down. When the workers refused to return, Reagan fired all of them. The public’s response was muted, and corporate America learned that it could crush unions with minimal blowback. And so it went, in one industry after another.


Today almost all private-sector employees (94 percent) are without a union, though roughly half of nonunion workers say they would organize if given the chance. They rarely are. Employers have at their disposal an arsenal of tactics designed to prevent collective bargaining, from hiring union-busting firms to telling employees that they could lose their jobs if they vote yes. Those strategies are legal, but companies also make illegal moves to block unions, like disciplining workers for trying to organize or threatening to close facilities. In 2016 and 2017, the National Labor Relations Board charged 42 percent of employers with violating federal law during union campaigns. In nearly a third of cases, this involved illegally firing workers for organizing.


Corporate lobbyists told us that organized labor was a drag on the economy — that once the companies had cleared out all these fusty, lumbering unions, the economy would rev up, raising everyone’s fortunes. But that didn’t come to pass. The negative effects of unions have been wildly overstated, and there is now evidence that unions play a role in increasing company productivity, for example by reducing turnover. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics measures productivity as how efficiently companies turn inputs (like materials and labor) into outputs (like goods and services). Historically, productivity, wages and profits rise and fall in lock step. But the American economy is less productive today than it was in the post-World War II period, when unions were at peak strength. The economies of other rich countries have slowed as well, including those with more highly unionized work forces, but it is clear that diluting labor power in America did not unleash economic growth or deliver prosperity to more people. “We were promised economic dynamism in exchange for inequality,” Eric Posner and Glen Weyl write in their book “Radical Markets.” “We got the inequality, but dynamism is actually declining.”


As workers lost power, their jobs got worse. For several decades after World War II, ordinary workers’ inflation-adjusted wages (known as “real wages”) increased by 2 percent each year. But since 1979, real wages have grown by only 0.3 percent a year. Astonishingly, workers with a high school diploma made 2.7 percent less in 2017 than they would have in 1979, adjusting for inflation. Workers without a diploma made nearly 10 percent less.


Lousy, underpaid work is not an indispensable, if regrettable, byproduct of capitalism, as some business defenders claim today. (This notion would have scandalized capitalism’s earliest defenders. John Stuart Mill, arch advocate of free people and free markets, once said that if widespread scarcity was a hallmark of capitalism, he would become a communist.) But capitalism is inherently about owners trying to give as little, and workers trying to get as much, as possible. With unions largely out of the picture, corporations have chipped away at the conventional midcentury work arrangement, which involved steady employment, opportunities for advancement and raises and decent pay with some benefits.


As the sociologist Gerald Davis has put it: Our grandparents had careers. Our parents had jobs. We complete tasks. Or at least that has been the story of the American working class and working poor.


Poor Americans aren’t just exploited in the labor market. They face consumer exploitation in the housing and financial markets as well.


There is a long history of slum exploitation in America. Money made slums because slums made money. Rent has more than doubled over the past two decades, rising much faster than renters’ incomes. Median rent rose from $483 in 2000 to $1,216 in 2021. Why have rents shot up so fast? Experts tend to offer the same rote answers to this question. There’s not enough housing supply, they say, and too much demand. Landlords must charge more just to earn a decent rate of return. Must they? How do we know?


We need more housing; no one can deny that. But rents have jumped even in cities with plenty of apartments to go around. At the end of 2021, almost 19 percent of rental units in Birmingham, Ala., sat vacant, as did 12 percent of those in Syracuse, N.Y. Yet rent in those areas increased by roughly 14 percent and 8 percent, respectively, over the previous two years. National data also show that rental revenues have far outpaced property owners’ expenses in recent years, especially for multifamily properties in poor neighborhoods. Rising rents are not simply a reflection of rising operating costs. There’s another dynamic at work, one that has to do with the fact that poor people — and particularly poor Black families — don’t have much choice when it comes to where they can live. Because of that, landlords can overcharge them, and they do.


A study I published with Nathan Wilmers found that after accounting for all costs, landlords operating in poor neighborhoods typically take in profits that are double those of landlords operating in affluent communities. If down-market landlords make more, it’s because their regular expenses (especially their mortgages and property-tax bills) are considerably lower than those in upscale neighborhoods. But in many cities with average or below-average housing costs — think Buffalo, not Boston — rents in the poorest neighborhoods are not drastically lower than rents in the middle-class sections of town. From 2015 to 2019, median monthly rent for a two-bedroom apartment in the Indianapolis metropolitan area was $991; it was $816 in neighborhoods with poverty rates above 40 percent, just around 17 percent less. Rents are lower in extremely poor neighborhoods, but not by as much as you would think.


Yet where else can poor families live? They are shut out of homeownership because banks are disinclined to issue small-dollar mortgages, and they are also shut out of public housing, which now has waiting lists that stretch on for years and even decades. Struggling families looking for a safe, affordable place to live in America usually have but one choice: to rent from private landlords and fork over at least half their income to rent and utilities. If millions of poor renters accept this state of affairs, it’s not because they can’t afford better alternatives; it’s because they often aren’t offered any.


You can read injunctions against usury in the Vedic texts of ancient India, in the sutras of Buddhism and in the Torah. Aristotle and Aquinas both rebuked it. Dante sent moneylenders to the seventh circle of hell. None of these efforts did much to stem the practice, but they do reveal that the unprincipled act of trapping the poor in a cycle of debt has existed at least as long as the written word. It might be the oldest form of exploitation after slavery. Many writers have depicted America’s poor as unseen, shadowed and forgotten people: as “other” or “invisible.” But markets have never failed to notice the poor, and this has been particularly true of the market for money itself.


The deregulation of the banking system in the 1980s heightened competition among banks. Many responded by raising fees and requiring customers to carry minimum balances. In 1977, over a third of banks offered accounts with no service charge. By the early 1990s, only 5 percent did. Big banks grew bigger as community banks shuttered, and in 2021, the largest banks in America charged customers almost $11 billion in overdraft fees. Just 9 percent of account holders paid 84 percent of these fees. Who were the unlucky 9 percent? Customers who carried an average balance of less than $350. The poor were made to pay for their poverty.


In 2021, the average fee for overdrawing your account was $33.58. Because banks often issue multiple charges a day, it’s not uncommon to overdraw your account by $20 and end up paying $200 for it. Banks could (and do) deny accounts to people who have a history of overextending their money, but those customers also provide a steady revenue stream for some of the most powerful financial institutions in the world.


According to the F.D.I.C., one in 19 U.S. households had no bank account in 2019, amounting to more than seven million families. Compared with white families, Black and Hispanic families were nearly five times as likely to lack a bank account. Where there is exclusion, there is exploitation. Unbanked Americans have created a market, and thousands of check-cashing outlets now serve that market. Check-cashing stores generally charge from 1 to 10 percent of the total, depending on the type of check. That means that a worker who is paid $10 an hour and takes a $1,000 check to a check-cashing outlet will pay $10 to $100 just to receive the money he has earned, effectively losing one to 10 hours of work. (For many, this is preferable to the less-predictable exploitation by traditional banks, with their automatic overdraft fees. It’s the devil you know.) In 2020, Americans spent $1.6 billion just to cash checks. If the poor had a costless way to access their own money, over a billion dollars would have remained in their pockets during the pandemic-induced recession.


Poverty can mean missed payments, which can ruin your credit. But just as troublesome as bad credit is having no credit score at all, which is the case for 26 million adults in the United States. Another 19 million possess a credit history too thin or outdated to be scored. Having no credit (or bad credit) can prevent you from securing an apartment, buying insurance and even landing a job, as employers are increasingly relying on credit checks during the hiring process. And when the inevitable happens — when you lose hours at work or when the car refuses to start — the payday-loan industry steps in.


For most of American history, regulators prohibited lending institutions from charging exorbitant interest on loans. Because of these limits, banks kept interest rates between 6 and 12 percent and didn’t do much business with the poor, who in a pinch took their valuables to the pawnbroker or the loan shark. But the deregulation of the banking sector in the 1980s ushered the money changers back into the temple by removing strict usury limits. Interest rates soon reached 300 percent, then 500 percent, then 700 percent. Suddenly, some people were very interested in starting businesses that lent to the poor. In recent years, 17 states have brought back strong usury limits, capping interest rates and effectively prohibiting payday lending. But the trade thrives in most places. The annual percentage rate for a two-week $300 loan can reach 460 percent in California, 516 percent in Wisconsin and 664 percent in Texas.


Roughly a third of all payday loans are now issued online, and almost half of borrowers who have taken out online loans have had lenders overdraw their bank accounts. The average borrower stays indebted for five months, paying $520 in fees to borrow $375. Keeping people indebted is, of course, the ideal outcome for the payday lender. It’s how they turn a $15 profit into a $150 one. Payday lenders do not charge high fees because lending to the poor is risky — even after multiple extensions, most borrowers pay up. Lenders extort because they can.


Every year: almost $11 billion in overdraft fees, $1.6 billion in check-cashing fees and up to $8.2 billion in payday-loan fees. That’s more than $55 million in fees collected predominantly from low-income Americans each day — not even counting the annual revenue collected by pawnshops and title loan services and rent-to-own schemes. When James Baldwin remarked in 1961 how “extremely expensive it is to be poor,” he couldn’t have imagined these receipts.


“Predatory inclusion” is what the historian Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor calls it in her book “Race for Profit,” describing the longstanding American tradition of incorporating marginalized people into housing and financial schemes through bad deals when they are denied good ones. The exclusion of poor people from traditional banking and credit systems has forced them to find alternative ways to cash checks and secure loans, which has led to a normalization of their exploitation. This is all perfectly legal, after all, and subsidized by the nation’s richest commercial banks. The fringe banking sector would not exist without lines of credit extended by the conventional one. Wells Fargo and JPMorgan Chase bankroll payday lenders like Advance America and Cash America. Everybody gets a cut.


Poverty isn’t simply the condition of not having enough money. It’s the condition of not having enough choice and being taken advantage of because of that. When we ignore the role that exploitation plays in trapping people in poverty, we end up designing policy that is weak at best and ineffective at worst. For example, when legislation lifts incomes at the bottom without addressing the housing crisis, those gains are often realized instead by landlords, not wholly by the families the legislation was intended to help. A 2019 study conducted by the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia found that when states raised minimum wages, families initially found it easier to pay rent. But landlords quickly responded to the wage bumps by increasing rents, which diluted the effect of the policy. This happened after the pandemic rescue packages, too: When wages began to rise in 2021 after worker shortages, rents rose as well, and soon people found themselves back where they started or worse.


Antipoverty programs work. Each year, millions of families are spared the indignities and hardships of severe deprivation because of these government investments. But our current antipoverty programs cannot abolish poverty by themselves. The Johnson administration started the War on Poverty and the Great Society in 1964. These initiatives constituted a bundle of domestic programs that included the Food Stamp Act, which made food aid permanent; the Economic Opportunity Act, which created Job Corps and Head Start; and the Social Security Amendments of 1965, which founded Medicare and Medicaid and expanded Social Security benefits. Nearly 200 pieces of legislation were signed into law in President Lyndon B. Johnson’s first five years in office, a breathtaking level of activity. And the result? Ten years after the first of these programs were rolled out in 1964, the share of Americans living in poverty was half what it was in 1960.


But the War on Poverty and the Great Society were started during a time when organized labor was strong, incomes were climbing, rents were modest and the fringe banking industry as we know it today didn’t exist. Today multiple forms of exploitation have turned antipoverty programs into something like dialysis, a treatment designed to make poverty less lethal, not to make it disappear.


This means we don’t just need deeper antipoverty investments. We need different ones, policies that refuse to partner with poverty, policies that threaten its very survival. We need to ensure that aid directed at poor people stays in their pockets, instead of being captured by companies whose low wages are subsidized by government benefits, or by landlords who raise the rents as their tenants’ wages rise, or by banks and payday-loan outlets who issue exorbitant fines and fees. Unless we confront the many forms of exploitation that poor families face, we risk increasing government spending only to experience another 50 years of sclerosis in the fight against poverty.


The best way to address labor exploitation is to empower workers. A renewed contract with American workers should make organizing easy. As things currently stand, unionizing a workplace is incredibly difficult. Under current labor law, workers who want to organize must do so one Amazon warehouse or one Starbucks location at a time. We have little chance of empowering the nation’s warehouse workers and baristas this way. This is why many new labor movements are trying to organize entire sectors. The Fight for $15 campaign, led by the Service Employees International Union, doesn’t focus on a single franchise (a specific McDonald’s store) or even a single company (McDonald’s) but brings together workers from several fast-food chains. It’s a new kind of labor power, and one that could be expanded: If enough workers in a specific economic sector — retail, hotel services, nursing — voted for the measure, the secretary of labor could establish a bargaining panel made up of representatives elected by the workers. The panel could negotiate with companies to secure the best terms for workers across the industry. This is a way to organize all Amazon warehouses and all Starbucks locations in a single go.


Sectoral bargaining, as it’s called, would affect tens of millions of Americans who have never benefited from a union of their own, just as it has improved the lives of workers in Europe and Latin America. The idea has been criticized by members of the business community, like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which has raised concerns about the inflexibility and even the constitutionality of sectoral bargaining, as well as by labor advocates, who fear that industrywide policies could nullify gains that existing unions have made or could be achieved only if workers make other sacrifices. Proponents of the idea counter that sectoral bargaining could even the playing field, not only between workers and bosses, but also between companies in the same sector that would no longer be locked into a race to the bottom, with an incentive to shortchange their work force to gain a competitive edge. Instead, the companies would be forced to compete over the quality of the goods and services they offer. Maybe we would finally reap the benefits of all that economic productivity we were promised.


We must also expand the housing options for low-income families. There isn’t a single right way to do this, but there is clearly a wrong way: the way we’re doing it now. One straightforward approach is to strengthen our commitment to the housing programs we already have. Public housing provides affordable homes to millions of Americans, but it’s drastically underfunded relative to the need. When the wealthy township of Cherry Hill, N.J., opened applications for 29 affordable apartments in 2021, 9,309 people applied. The sky-high demand should tell us something, though: that affordable housing is a life changer, and families are desperate for it.


We could also pave the way for more Americans to become homeowners, an initiative that could benefit poor, working-class and middle-class families alike — as well as scores of young people. Banks generally avoid issuing small-dollar mortgages, not because they’re riskier — these mortgages have the same delinquency rates as larger mortgages — but because they’re less profitable. Over the life of a mortgage, interest on $1 million brings in a lot more money than interest on $75,000. This is where the federal government could step in, providing extra financing to build on-ramps to first-time homeownership. In fact, it already does so in rural America through the 502 Direct Loan Program, which has moved more than two million families into their own homes. These loans, fully guaranteed and serviced by the Department of Agriculture, come with low interest rates and, for very poor families, cover the entire cost of the mortgage, nullifying the need for a down payment. Last year, the average 502 Direct Loan was for $222,300 but cost the government only $10,370 per loan, chump change for such a durable intervention. Expanding a program like this into urban communities would provide even more low- and moderate-income families with homes of their own.


We should also ensure fair access to capital. Banks should stop robbing the poor and near-poor of billions of dollars each year, immediately ending exorbitant overdraft fees. As the legal scholar Mehrsa Baradaran has pointed out, when someone overdraws an account, banks could simply freeze the transaction or could clear a check with insufficient funds, providing customers a kind of short-term loan with a low interest rate of, say, 1 percent a day.


States should rein in payday-lending institutions and insist that lenders make it clear to potential borrowers what a loan is ultimately likely to cost them. Just as fast-food restaurants must now publish calorie counts next to their burgers and shakes, payday-loan stores should publish the average overall cost of different loans. When Texas adopted disclosure rules, residents took out considerably fewer bad loans. If Texas can do this, why not California or Wisconsin? Yet to stop financial exploitation, we need to expand, not limit, low-income Americans’ access to credit. Some have suggested that the government get involved by having the U.S. Postal Service or the Federal Reserve issue small-dollar loans. Others have argued that we should revise government regulations to entice commercial banks to pitch in. Whatever our approach, solutions should offer low-income Americans more choice, a way to end their reliance on predatory lending institutions that can get away with robbery because they are the only option available.


In Tommy Orange’s novel, “There There,” a man trying to describe the problem of suicides on Native American reservations says: “Kids are jumping out the windows of burning buildings, falling to their deaths. And we think the problem is that they’re jumping.” The poverty debate has suffered from a similar kind of myopia. For the past half-century, we’ve approached the poverty question by pointing to poor people themselves — posing questions about their work ethic, say, or their welfare benefits — when we should have been focusing on the fire. The question that should serve as a looping incantation, the one we should ask every time we drive past a tent encampment, those tarped American slums smelling of asphalt and bodies, or every time we see someone asleep on the bus, slumped over in work clothes, is simply: Who benefits? Not: Why don’t you find a better job? Or: Why don’t you move? Or: Why don’t you stop taking out payday loans? But: Who is feeding off this?


Those who have amassed the most power and capital bear the most responsibility for America’s vast poverty: political elites who have utterly failed low-income Americans over the past half-century; corporate bosses who have spent and schemed to prioritize profits over families; lobbyists blocking the will of the American people with their self-serving interests; property owners who have exiled the poor from entire cities and fueled the affordable-housing crisis. Acknowledging this is both crucial and deliciously absolving; it directs our attention upward and distracts us from all the ways (many unintentional) that we — we the secure, the insured, the housed, the college-educated, the protected, the lucky — also contribute to the problem.


Corporations benefit from worker exploitation, sure, but so do consumers, who buy the cheap goods and services the working poor produce, and so do those of us directly or indirectly invested in the stock market. Landlords are not the only ones who benefit from housing exploitation; many homeowners do, too, their property values propped up by the collective effort to make housing scarce and expensive. The banking and payday-lending industries profit from the financial exploitation of the poor, but so do those of us with free checking accounts, as those accounts are subsidized by billions of dollars in overdraft fees.


Living our daily lives in ways that express solidarity with the poor could mean we pay more; anti-exploitative investing could dampen our stock portfolios. By acknowledging those costs, we acknowledge our complicity. Unwinding ourselves from our neighbors’ deprivation and refusing to live as enemies of the poor will require us to pay a price. It’s the price of our restored humanity and renewed country.



6) Man Locked Up for 18 Years Thanks to Misleading Photo ID, Prosecutors Say

The Brooklyn district attorney says a deceptive photo lineup helped imprison Sheldon Thomas for a killing he did not commit. He is to appear in court on Thursday.

By Hurubie Meko, March 9, 2023


Pictures of two young men in close up.
The police arrested Sheldon Thomas, right, in a murder in 2004, after knowingly showing a photo of a different Sheldon Thomas, left, to a witness to identify. Credit...via Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office

For nearly 20 years, one photograph stood between Sheldon Thomas and freedom.


It was a picture of a different Sheldon Thomas.


In 2004, police officers showed the image of a young Black man to a witness, who chose him from an array of six as a suspect in a fatal shooting in Brooklyn’s East Flatbush neighborhood. That identification withstood scrutiny through an indictment, trial and appeals over more than 18 years.


But now, the Brooklyn district attorney’s office is saying that detectives, prosecutors and the original trial’s judge knew from the outset that the photo in the array wasn’t actually of the man they wanted to arrest, but they proceeded anyway.


In a new report from the Brooklyn district attorney’s conviction review unit provided to The Times, prosecutors said that the two men shared a name, and they had addresses in the same precinct, but police investigators knew early on that they were different people.


Mr. Thomas, 35, is scheduled to appear in court on Thursday afternoon before Matthew J. D’Emic, a judge with the Brooklyn Supreme Court. The district attorney’s office said in its report that the conviction should be vacated.


The case was “compromised from the very start by grave errors and lack of probable cause to arrest Mr. Thomas,” District Attorney Eric Gonzalez said in a statement.


“He was further deprived of his due process rights when the prosecution proceeded even after the erroneous identification came to light,” Mr. Gonzalez said, calling the conviction “fundamentally unfair.”


Attorneys for Mr. Thomas declined to comment before the hearing.


The case would be the 34th conviction vacated after re-investigations by the unit, which was expanded in 2014, and shows what can happen when checks in the criminal justice system break down.


The prosecutor’s office said that the man in the photo array and Mr. Thomas do not look alike, despite the assertions by police investigators, government lawyers, the trial judge and an appellate panel.


In a defense-commissioned study, prosecutors said, 32 law students of color examined a photo of Mr. Thomas, who is Black. Then they looked at the photo array. Twenty-seven correctly said Mr. Thomas was not in it.


The case that was the undoing of Mr. Thomas’s life started on Christmas Eve 2004: People in a car shot at six others on the corner of East 52nd Street and Snyder Avenue in Brooklyn, killing a 14-year-old boy, Anderson Bercy, and wounding a man.


Detectives had “repeatedly harassed” Mr. Thomas for months following a previous arrest for pointing an inoperable gun at police officers, the district attorney said.


After the killing, investigators zeroed in on him, obtaining the photo of the man with the same name, according to the report. They then prompted a witness to choose that incorrect picture, and arrested the Mr. Thomas they wanted, the report said.


Mr. Thomas denied being in Brooklyn on the night of the shooting, telling investigators that he was in Queens until 3 a.m. on Dec. 25, according to the report.


But then, the report said, Mr. Thomas was wrongly identified during three in-person lineups; prosecutors most likely failed to disclose false police testimony; they used a witness with questionable credibility; and a defense counsel exacerbated the errors.


Investigators had coerced the witness, guiding her, the report said. Her photo identifications “were prompted by the detectives,” the report says. “The detectives were intent on arresting defendant.”


During a pretrial hearing a year and a half after Mr. Thomas was arrested, the lead detective admitted on cross-examination that he had provided false testimony about the photo array, prosecutors said.


Later, another detective said that Mr. Thomas was also on the police’s radar because of an anonymous tip, but acknowledged that Mr. Thomas did tell them he was not the man in the photo.


However, the judge determined that the photo of the wrong man was of no consequence, that the men resembled one another, and that the police had other evidence giving them probable cause to make the arrest. The trial went on.


Police and prosecutors involved in wrongful conviction cases rarely face discipline, according to a 2020 report from the National Registry of Exonerations, which has archived all known exonerations in the United States since 1989. An 2007 Internal Affairs investigation into the lead detective resulted in disciplinary action for failing to document what the police called a “photo array mix up.” But an allegation of perjury was found to be unsubstantiated.


It was not immediately clear whether Mr. Thomas’s exoneration would have further repercussions for the police officers and prosecutors who worked the case.


While a co-defendant was acquitted, Mr. Thomas was convicted of second-degree murder, attempted murder and other counts and was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison.


The repeated mistakes and misdirection meant that Mr. Thomas was unjustly deprived of his freedom, prosecutors wrote in the new report.


“Each of these errors, on its own, deprived defendant of a fair trial,” they wrote. “Together the errors undermined the integrity of the entire judicial process and defendant’s resulting conviction.”



7) Weeks After Ohio Train Derailment, Health Concerns Mount

In a tight-knit town already skeptical of the government, the lack of concrete information, and the open-ended nature of the crisis, undergird anxiety.

By Emily Baumgaertner, March 9, 2023


Greg Mascher wears a dark blue long-sleeve shirt, a black cap, and sits in a large light brown arm chair, holding his 7-year-old granddaughter, who rests on his chest and looks off with eyes wide into the distance. She plays with a necklace crucifix hanging around his neck with her right hand.
Greg Mascher with his youngest granddaughter, Raylix. It could be months, if ever, before health officials know whether the symptoms suffered by East Palestine residents are directly linked to the derailment. Credit...Brian Kaiser for The New York Times

EAST PALESTINE, Ohio — When the railroad crossing gate lowered in front of Greg Mascher’s Chevy Tahoe, his youngest granddaughter shrank down in the back seat and pulled a worn American flag blanket over her eyes. She worried that the train was going to wreck — again.


“Tell me when it’s all over, Papa,” his granddaughter, Raylix, 7, pleaded as the rail cars rumbled through — ones much like the Norfolk Southern cars that had derailed here almost three weeks earlier, resulting in a toxic spill that appeared to cause symptoms of chemical poisoning in hundreds of households.


Mr. Mascher, 61, who is raising three granddaughters with his wife, Traci, had not sent them back to school since they had developed rashes, vomiting and headaches. He glanced at Raylix, still cowering under the blanket, in his rearview mirror.


“When it’s all over, huh?” he sighed, adjusting the crucifix around his neck. “Not sure anybody can tell you girls that.”


Mobile health clinics and camera crews have begun to pack up and leave this town of 4,700, but for the Mascher family and their neighbors, frightening questions remain: How could they know if they had been poisoned by the spill? Were toxins still lingering in the air, the water and the soil surrounding their houses? Would they develop lifelong health problems? And would the relatives who had evacuated the town — like Mr. Mascher’s daughter, her husband and their three daughters, cousins who are like sisters to Raylix — come back?


On Thursday, the chief executive of Norfolk Southern, Alan H. Shaw, encountered more angry questions, when he appeared before a Senate committee. He told the panel he was “deeply sorry” for the impact of the derailment on East Palestine residents but insisted that “the air is safe to breathe and the water is safe to drink.”


In fact, it could be months or longer, if ever, before health officials know for sure whether the symptoms suffered by East Palestine residents are directly linked to the derailment, and whether they could yield long-term effects. In a tight-knit town that is already skeptical of the government, the lack of concrete information undergirds the growing anxiety.


Medical guidance is sparse. The long-awaited state health clinic sent to East Palestine weeks after the spill at first offered only questionnaires and did not have a doctor on hand. Local primary care physicians, booked for weeks, say that without more toxicology data, they aren’t equipped to diagnose chemical poisoning, so they are simply treating symptoms with ibuprofen and ointment.


“When you’re a physician, you have to call out that you just don’t know,” said Dr. James Kravec, an internist and the chief clinical officer of Mercy Health-Youngstown, which has a primary care practice in East Palestine. “With high blood pressure or diabetes, it’s pretty straightforward. Right now, doctors want to run a test — order something — and they can’t. That’s hard for them.”


Toxicology experts say that children are of particular concern when chemicals are burned and disseminated into the air, because they typically breathe faster and have smaller lungs. A dose of toxins that is negligible to an adult could have a significant impact on a child, said Dr. Mary Prunicki, a Stanford researcher focused on the health effects of air pollutants. If one of the gases causes bronchospasm or inflammation of the airway, a child “has much less leeway than a healthy adult,” she said.


The Mascher granddaughters are a prime example. The morning before the derailment, the three girls enjoyed their daily routine. Mr. Mascher’s daughter, Adyson Glavan — the girls’ Aunt Addy — dropped off her own three daughters at Mr. Mascher’s. He made breakfast for all six granddaughters while they fed the guinea pigs and practiced cartwheels in the front yard.


That night, the train derailed, and two days later, as smoke billowed from the railroad tracks, all six girls developed runny noses and bronchitis-like coughs. Raylix, Kayton and Brayla — whom Mr. Mascher cares for — broke out in rashes. Two of Ms. Glavan’s daughters, Vivian and Vayda, began to vomit. The sprawling family loaded into two S.U.V.s to temporarily evacuate.


Michael S. Regan, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, said officials were “testing for everything that was on that train.” But, toxicology experts say, the chemical makeup of a spill changes over time as it ages and interacts with the atmosphere, the soil and the groundwater, creating copious new threats that cannot be easily profiled.


Vinyl chloride, for example, the chemical that was carried in five of the cars, can cause toxic fumes made up of new compounds like carbon monoxide, hydrogen chloride and phosgene, a substance classified as a lethal chemical weapon in World War I, according to Dr. Prunicki. Burning vinyl chloride can also produce dioxins, which are known to cause cancer, infertility, Type 2 diabetes, ischemic heart disease and immune disorders.


“There are hundreds of chemicals that could be at play at this point, and we absolutely have the tools in academia to test for most all of them,” said Dr. Kari Nadeau, the head of the environmental health department at Harvard, who studies the toxicological effects of smoke in air pollution, including burning plastics. But Congress allows the E.P.A. to monitor for only a limited list of contaminants in the environment, and even with approval, the bureaucratic process of validating and deploying each of the assays could take years.


Instead, air monitors are hanging on stop signs and trees — wrapped in plastic bags to protect them from rain, an impediment that Dr. Nadeau called “concerning.”


Another key force that is often overlooked in toxin surveillance: gravity. Even once the air and surface resources appear to be clear, chemicals tend to seep downward into soil and deep municipal water sources, even some that have previously tested safe, toxicologists say. And as water sources become diluted over time, toxin levels could simply fall below regulation thresholds, giving a false sense of purity.


“With toxicology, it’s both the dose and the passage of time” that matter, said Dr. Nadeau, who also practices medicine and treats children with sensitivities. “We are only as good as our assays.”


The Mascher family has been a fixture in East Palestine since Mr. Mascher’s great-great-grandfather opened a jewelry store in 1876 on Market Street, down by where Gorby’s sandwiches and an antique shop are now, and later became mayor. The granddaughters are eighth-generation residents. But on the night they returned from the evacuation, they also became an illustration of a painful reality: When trauma strikes, not everyone can flee.


When Vivian, Ms. Glavan’s 8-year-old, broke out in new rashes, she turned her car around. Her household has since moved to Homeworth, Ohio, about 30 miles west.


“You know I can’t bring them back there, Dad,” Ms. Glavan said to Mr. Mascher over the phone. He nodded silently.


But Mr. Mascher, who relies on Social Security checks and is not in a position to move, feels trapped. “Who would want to buy this house?” he said. “Who would want to live in East Palestine now?”


Mr. Mascher finds himself with no appetite and unable to sleep, unsure of whether his granddaughters’ headaches and coughing are due to the flu or to a chemical poisoning that will worsen the longer they stay. He wonders whether raising the girls here could lead to birth defects for their own children later on.


Indeed, while the physical health effects of the crisis are plagued with uncertainty, the mental health consequences are clearer.


“What is happening in East Palestine has all the hallmarks of an environmental disaster that can lead to long-term mental health consequences,” said Dr. Salma Mohamed Hassan Abdalla, a researcher at Boston University who studied the impact of the 2014-16 water crisis in Flint, Mich., in which officials switched the source of the city’s water and then responded slowly to elevated lead levels and reports of sickness.


The scene in East Palestine is reminiscent of Flint, where the authorities offered shifting narratives and thin assurances to low-income families who had few options but to stay and hope. There, as in East Palestine, pallets of bottled water were stacked onto porches as neighbors exchanged advice about how to safely brush their teeth and bathe their children.


Almost one in four adults in Flint, Mich., met the criteria for post-traumatic stress disorder in the years following the water crisis, according to surveys, and many of them attributed the burden to worries about their children’s futures. Stress among caregivers was deeply intertwined with that among young people, who saw months of television ads for personal injury lawyers and political campaigns leveraging the crisis.


“In a town like East Palestine, you have a lot of people already vulnerable because of socioeconomic status — already most susceptible to mental health issues — even before they’re hit with disaster,” Dr. Abdalla said. As the uncertainties mount, those groups are also the least likely to have access to support services. “I worry about increasing mental distress as time goes on.”


When the fourth-grade girls’ basketball team finally gathered in the elementary school gymnasium for its first practice after the derailment, the court was still covered with cots, boot tracks and dusty debris left by the railroad cleanup crews who had encamped there. The players and their coaches, including Mr. Mascher, stood at half-court, hugged one another and cried.


Mr. Mascher did not yet have the courage to tell Raylix that Ms. Glavan’s household wasn’t coming back to live in East Palestine. The railroad that cuts their town in half every 15 minutes has also split their family.



8) School District Sued Over Handling of Student’s Pledge of Allegiance Protest

A South Carolina high school teacher shoved a student against a wall after the teenager refused to stop for the pledge on her way to class, according to a federal lawsuit.

By Amanda Holpuch, March 11, 2023


 Four people standing in front of microphones at a news conference.

Marissa Barnwell’s parents said that they filed a federal lawsuit over how school officials handled their daughter’s refusal to recite the Pledge of Allegiance. Credit...Alexa Jurado/The State, via Associated Press

The parents of a South Carolina ninth grader said in a federal lawsuit that a teacher pushed their daughter into a wall after she ignored demands to acknowledge the Pledge of Allegiance as it was broadcast over her high school’s intercom.


The 15-year-old student, Marissa Barnwell, and her parents said that the school district did not respond to their inquiries about the episode, prompting them to file a federal lawsuit last month.


“I feel like something should have happened to the teacher, and the teacher should have been handled appropriately, where she is either arrested or fired,” Marissa said in an interview on Saturday. “But nothing like that’s happened and she still works there.”


The family’s lawsuit accuses the South Carolina Department of Education, Lexington County School District One and specific district employees of violating Marissa’s constitutional rights.


The teacher, who is identified in the lawsuit as Nicole Livingston, the school district and the State Education Department did not respond to requests for comment on Saturday. Libby Roof, the chief communications officer for Lexington School District One, said in an email on Saturday that the district’s lawyer was working on a response to the suit. “It will be filed in the coming weeks,” she said.


Under federal law and South Carolina law, no one can be forced to recite the Pledge of Allegiance.


Marissa, who is Black, said that she had stopped reciting the Pledge of Allegiance in third grade because she did not believe that its message of “liberty and justice for all” was applied equitably in the United States.


Ryan Julison, a spokesman for the family’s lawyer, Tyler Bailey, said that a fifth-grade teacher in the same district once called the Barnwells to say that Marissa wasn’t reciting the pledge. When the teacher was told that Marissa would not be forced to say it, nothing further came of it, Mr. Julison said.


Marissa said she was inspired in part by Colin Kaepernick, the former N.F.L. player who protested police brutality and racial injustice by taking a knee during the national anthem at football games. She said she was also moved to activism by the Black Lives Matter protests in 2020, which she said inspired her to be more passionate about “standing up for Black people, the Black community.”


Marissa said that on the morning of Nov. 29 — her birthday — she was walking to class at River Bluff High School in Lexington, S.C., as the Pledge of Allegiance was being broadcast over an intercom when Ms. Livingston started yelling “stop.”


Marissa said she did not know Ms. Livingston and assumed that the orders were not directed at her.


“When she said ‘stop’ the third time, she grabbed me, she just ambushed me, and she just attacked me and started pushing me toward, against the wall,” Marissa said.


Her family’s lawyer shared school security footage that shows other students walking on that day as the pledge was being recited.


“I could tell that this outrage and anger from her was very political, and she targeted me because I was Black,” Marissa said. River Bluff High School is predominantly white.


The teacher took Marissa to the principal’s office, according to the lawsuit. The principal, Jacob Smith, told Marissa he would review the security footage and sent her back to class, the lawsuit said. Marissa then called her mother, tearful, and relayed what had happened. Mr. Smith could not be reached on Saturday.


Marissa, an honor roll student who participates in extracurricular activities, including cheerleading, said that it has been “mentally draining” to walk the same hallway since then.


Marissa’s mother, Fynale Barnwell, said that she and Marissa’s father, Shavell Barnwell, repeatedly tried to meet with school, district and city officials to discuss how to address the family’s concerns.


She said that on Jan. 10 they went to a school board meeting to discuss “our unhappiness and discomfort with the way the situation was handled and being treated.” No one tried to “work with us or speak with us,” she said.


Ms. Barnwell said that people had made derogatory comments online about her daughter and family since they held a news conference to discuss the lawsuit on Thursday.


Mr. Barnwell said that the principal called Ms. Barnwell on Friday and told her he treated all of his students like his children.


“That call should have been done right after the incident,” Mr. Barnwell said.



9) Michelle Yeoh: The Crisis That Changed My Life 8 Years Ago Keeps Happening

By Michelle Yeoh, March 13, 2023

Ms. Yeoh is an actor and a United Nations Development Program goodwill ambassador.
Two women in front of a collapsed building react with anguish.
Women react at the site of a collapsed building in the aftermath of the major earthquake in the Elbistan district of Kahramanmaras, Turkey, in February. Credit...Sedat Suna/EPA, via Shutterstock

Over the past few weeks, many people around the world joined me in celebrating my career firsts — from winning my first Golden Globe, Screen Actors Guild Award and Independent Spirit Award to earning my first Oscar (for actress in a leading role). While I am grateful for this unforgettable moment in my professional life, I want to redirect that global spotlight to an issue that is very personal to me and warrants the world’s attention.


My life changed eight years ago when one moment shook my outlook on the world.


It was April 25, 2015, and I was in Nepal with my partner, Jean Todt, visiting local organizations. Suddenly, I felt the earth begin to tremble violently. Outside the doors of the low-rise building I was in, a deadly earthquake ravaged the country. I’ve never felt the type of fear and panic I felt that day, when the ground beneath me shook so powerfully, I couldn’t stand on my feet. I had to crawl to try to make it to the door to escape. When we emerged, we had to stay outside for hours, unsure which buildings were strong enough or safe enough to return to.


I was fortunate to make it through that day unscathed, but not untouched. The experience was terrifying. Its effects linger with me still. Our hotel was damaged during the earthquake and was no longer safe to enter, so we made our way straight to the airport, where we spent two nights before being evacuated by plane. As we got on the road, I saw the ruins and destruction all around me. I couldn’t shake the thought of how unfair it was that I had a home to go to, unlike the thousands of families whose entire lives were suddenly reduced to rubble.


Disasters of such magnitude cause irreparable damage to the lives of those who already have so little. I witnessed this when I returned to Nepal to help with relief efforts three weeks after the earthquake and then again a year later, when I returned as a goodwill ambassador for the United Nations Development Program.


I thought again of Nepal when I watched the coverage of the devastating earthquake that hit Turkey and Syria last month. Even before the earthquake struck, the socioeconomic conditions in Syria were dire, with approximately 90 percent of the population living in poverty and millions in need of humanitarian assistance. Many are now homeless and lack the means to rebuild their lives or keep their families safe.


Crises aren’t just moments of catastrophe: They expose deep existing inequalities. Those living in poverty, especially women and girls, bear the brunt. In the immediate aftermath of a disaster, lack of sanitation, health facilities and safety disproportionately affect women. In my time as a goodwill ambassador, I have seen up close how women and girls are often the last to go back to school and the last to get basic services like clean water, vaccines, identity cards and counseling. They are typically the last to get jobs and loans.


In Syria the United Nations anticipates some 40,000 women will give birth in the coming months without access to sanitary conditions. When women have to sleep out in the open — often the case when buildings have collapsed or are unsafe — or in group shelters without adequate privacy or protection, they are at increased risk of sexual violence and assault, which skyrocket in the aftermath of a disaster.


To fully recover from a disaster and be prepared for the next one, the specific needs of women and girls must be factored into the humanitarian response.


Women must also play leadership roles in the recovery process. But women are woefully underrepresented in the decision making that affects their prospects of survival in times of crisis. This gap has a dangerous effect: Studies have shown that women are hit hardest in disasters. Women and girls are often at a disadvantage when it comes to rescue efforts, and women are more likely than men to suffer from hunger.


We know women sustain their communities. Their voices, leadership and full participation are key to an inclusive, successful and sustainable recovery. This means considering women’s needs, priorities and safety when rebuilding neighborhoods and constructing schools and marketplaces. It means ensuring women have equal access to information, job opportunities and skills training, as well as loans and insurance mechanisms, which are all crucial to regain financial stability.


We know having more women in positions of power and as decision makers at community, national and institutional levels leads to more inclusive policies, laws and practices that protect and contribute to gender equality at all levels. It means striving for zero tolerance for gender-based violence at home, at work, online or anywhere else. And it also means investing in women’s education to ensure their voices are represented at the highest levels of government and society.


We live in a world plagued by recurrent pandemic, war and disaster and are struggling with climate change. It can feel insurmountable. But we also live during a time of incredible technological advancements. Information and communication technologies are our most powerful allies in battling these crises. Technology keeps essential social services running, improves crisis response, strengthens communities and boosts economic recovery.


And yet the digital world is also a place of inequality. Globally, 2.7 billion people are excluded from digital connectivity, more of them women. As a result, according to the World Bank, women face barriers in getting access to information and resources in all spheres of their lives, including how to adequately prepare for, respond to and cope with a disaster.


Reducing the digital divide is critical in changing deeply ingrained gender social norms and ensuring that women’s voices and leadership are embedded at the highest levels before, during and after a disaster. Furthermore, we must make measurable investments in women’s education that promote digital literacy and STEM fields.


This year we are halfway toward the 2030 target date to achieve what the United Nations calls Sustainable Development Goals, a blueprint for a shared global vision of a world without poverty or inequality. What I have learned through my work with U.N.D.P. is that realizing these global goals will be possible only if we achieve true gender equality, everywhere, and in all aspects of life — especially in times of crisis — and in anticipation of the next disaster.


I’m 60 years old, and I just won my first Oscar. I know something about perseverance, and I am all too aware of what society expects of women. I’m also well aware that my experience can’t compare at all with that of the women heroes I met who are on the front lines of crises. But if I can do one thing with this moment of my professional joy, it would be to point the spotlight on those who all too often go unacknowledged, the women who are rebuilding their communities, taking care of children and older people and putting food on the table. Let’s make sure they are not missing from the room when decisions are being made that affect them the most.



10) Biden Administration Approves Huge Alaska Oil Project

The administration also announced new limits on Arctic drilling in an apparent effort to temper criticism over the $8 billion Willow oil project, which has faced sharp opposition.

By Lisa Friedman, Published March 12, 2023, Updated March 13, 2023


Aerial view of a frozen landscape with some oil drilling gear in the foreground.

A drilling camp at the proposed site of the Willow oil project on Alaska’s North Slope. Credit...ConocoPhillips, via Associated Press

The Biden administration gave formal approval Monday for a huge oil drilling project in Alaska known as Willow, despite widespread opposition because of its likely environmental and climate impacts.


The president is also expected to announce sweeping restrictions on offshore oil leasing in the Arctic Ocean and across Alaska’s North Slope in an apparent effort to temper criticism over the Willow decision and, as one administration official put it, to form a “firewall” to limit future oil leases in the region. The Interior Department said it would issue new rules to block oil and gas leases on more than 13 million of the 23 million acres that form the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska.


The drilling project would take place inside the petroleum reserve, which is located about 200 miles north of the Arctic Circle. The reserve, which has no roads, is the country’s largest single expanse of pristine land.


The restrictions, however, are unlikely to offset concerns that the $8 billion Willow project, led by oil giant ConocoPhillips, will have the potential to produce more than 600 million barrels of crude over 30 years.


Burning all that oil could release nearly 280 million metric tons of carbon emissions into the atmosphere. On an annual basis, that would translate into 9.2 million metric tons of carbon pollution, equal to adding nearly two million cars to the roads each year. The United States, the second biggest polluter on the planet after China, emits about 5.6 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide annually.


The president has been lobbied fiercely by the oil industry and Alaska lawmakers to approve the Willow project. Other supporters, including labor unions, building trades and some residents of the North Slope, have argued that the project would create about 2,500 jobs and generate as much as $17 billion in revenue for the federal government. Most Indigenous groups in Alaska, including the state’s first Alaska Native elected to Congress, Mary Peltola, also support it.


At the same time, environmental activists and the Native American community closest to the Willow site have fought the project through online campaigns, protests and meetings with federal officials, charging that approval of the project would be a betrayal of Mr. Biden’s pledge to move the nation away from fossil fuels. The International Energy Agency has said that governments must stop approving new oil, gas and coal projects if the planet is to avert the most catastrophic impacts of climate change.


Representatives from ConocoPhillips said Sunday night that they would decline comment until they had seen a written decision.


Approval of the Willow project marks a turning point in the administration’s approach to fossil fuel development. The courts and Congress have forced Mr. Biden to back away from his campaign pledge of “no more drilling on federal lands, period” and sign off on some limited oil and gas leases. Willow would be one of the few oil projects that Mr. Biden has approved freely, without a court or a congressional mandate.


Climate activists said that they were pleased the president plans to protect the Arctic but remained outraged that Mr. Biden would approve a project they term a “carbon bomb.”


“It’s insulting that Biden thinks this will change our minds about the Willow project,” said Kristen Monsell, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity, an environmental group. “Protecting one area of the Arctic so you can destroy another doesn’t make sense, and it won’t help the people and wildlife who will be upended by the Willow project.”


The decision is sure to invite legal challenges from environmental groups.


“The Biden administration appears to be considering tinkering at the margins,” said Abigail Dillen, president of Earthjustice, an environmental group. “That won’t remedy legal failures to address this project’s outside harms and we expect to see them in court if Willow is approved.”


The administration said it would approve permits for three drilling sites and deny two others, including one that would have been closest to a coastal wetland known as Teshekpuk Lake. The administration also said it would deny permission to build a road that would have led to the fourth drilling site.


ConocoPhillips had initially sought five drilling sites for the project and said it needed at least three to make the project financially viable.


In addition to rejecting two of the proposed drilling sites, the administration also announced that ConocoPhillips would return about 68,000 acres of existing leases to the government. Officials said they believe that would prevent the company from trying to expand oil drilling in the region beyond the Willow project.


Administration officials are moving ahead with the Willow project despite the fact its environmental analysis raised “substantial concerns” about emissions, danger to freshwater sources and threats to migratory birds, caribou, whales and other animals that inhabit the region.


According to the two people familiar with the deliberations, the administration concluded that it doesn’t have the legal authority to deny permits to ConocoPhillips, which has long held leases on the land in the petroleum reserve.


The cornerstone of Mr. Biden’s new Arctic environmental pledges is a declaration that the entire Arctic Ocean will be off limits to oil and gas leasing, completing an effort that began under President Barack Obama.


The Interior Department said Mr. Biden will designate about 2.8 million acres of the Beaufort Sea in the Arctic Ocean near shore in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska as indefinitely off limits for future oil and gas leasing. That would ensure “this important habitat for whales, seals, polar bears, as well as for subsistence purposes, will be protected in perpetuity from extractive development,” the Interior Department said in a statement.


Mr. Obama banned drilling in portions of the Arctic Ocean’s Beaufort and Chukchi Seas, using a 1953 law that allows presidents to block the sale of offshore drilling and mining rights. President Trump later tried to open all coastal waters of the United States to oil and gas drilling, including the areas protected by the Obama administration.


Mr. Biden also announced protections for a number of sites in Alaska, including Teshekpuk Lake, Utukok Uplands, Colville River, Kasegaluk Lagoon and Peard Bay Special Areas.


Oil industry officials criticized the planned Arctic protections.


“In the current energy crisis, the Biden administration should be focused on strengthening U.S. energy security and standing with the working families of Alaska by supporting the responsible development of federal lands and waters — not acting to restrict it,” said Frank Macchiarola, senior vice president of policy at the American Petroleum Institute, a trade organization.



11) Authorities Reinstate Alcohol Ban for Aboriginal Australians

The reaction to a rise in crime has renewed hard questions about race and control, and about the open wounds of discrimination.

By Yan Zhuang, March 12, 2023

Yan Zhuang reported this story from Alice Springs, in Australia’s Northern Territory.


A man and woman sitting on a shaded porch look down at a small dog the man is holding.

“For 15 years, I couldn’t buy a beer,” said Geoff Shaw, shown with his partner, Eileen Hoosan, at their home in Alice Springs. Credit...Tamati Smith for The New York Times

Two men sit on the porch of a structure in a sandy field.

An Aboriginal town camp in Alice Springs. Little has been done to address Indigenous communities’ severe underlying inequality. Credit...Tamati Smith for The New York Times

Geoff Shaw cracked open a beer, savoring the simple freedom of having a drink on his porch on a sweltering Saturday morning in mid-February in Australia’s remote Northern Territory.


“For 15 years, I couldn’t buy a beer,” said Mr. Shaw, a 77-year-old Aboriginal elder in Alice Springs, the territory’s third-largest town. “I’m a Vietnam veteran, and I couldn’t even buy a beer.”


Mr. Shaw lives in what the government has deemed a “prescribed area,” an Aboriginal town camp where from 2007 until last year it was illegal to possess alcohol, part of a set of extraordinary race-based interventions into the lives of Indigenous Australians.


Last July, the Northern Territory let the alcohol ban expire for hundreds of Aboriginal communities, calling it racist. But little had been done in the intervening years to address the communities’ severe underlying disadvantage. Once alcohol flowed again, there was an explosion of crime in Alice Springs widely attributed to Aboriginal people. Local and federal politicians reinstated the ban late last month. And Mr. Shaw’s taste of freedom ended.


From the halls of power in the nation’s capital to ramshackle outback settlements, the turmoil in the Northern Territory has revived hard questions that are even older than Australia itself, about race and control and the open wounds of discrimination.


For those who believe that the country’s largely white leadership should not dictate the decisions of Aboriginal people, the alcohol ban’s return replicates the effects of colonialism and disempowers communities. Others argue that the benefits, like reducing domestic violence and other harms to the most vulnerable, can outweigh the discriminatory effects.


For Mr. Shaw, the restrictions are simply a distraction — another Band-Aid for communities that, to address problems at their roots, need funding and support and to be listened to.


“They had nothing to offer us,” he said. “And they had 15 years to sort this out.”


The liquor restrictions prohibit anyone who lives in Aboriginal town camps on the outskirts of Alice Springs, as well as those in more remote Indigenous communities, from buying takeaway alcohol. The town itself is not included in the ban, though Aboriginal people there often face more scrutiny in trying to buy liquor.


One recent day at Uncle’s Tavern, in the center of Alice Springs, patrons — almost all of them non-Indigenous — drank beneath palm trees strung with lights. In the town of 25,000, it seemed as if everyone had a friend, relative or neighbor who had been the victim of an assault, a break-in or property destruction.


As night fell, Aboriginal people who walked the otherwise empty streets were separated from the pub’s patrons by a fence with tall black bars, like something out of a prison. Sometimes, those outside pressed up against the bars; children asked for money for food, and adults for cigarettes or alcohol. The pub’s gate was open, but there were unspoken barriers to entry for the people outside.


Many Aboriginal people travel into town for basic services from the remote communities where they live, in conditions more akin to those of a developing country. Some Indigenous leaders in and around Alice Springs attribute the spike in crime to these visitors.


In the daytime, they were often the only people sitting in public spaces, with nowhere to go to escape the blistering heat. One Aboriginal visitor to Alice Springs, Gloria Cooper, said she had traveled hundreds of miles for medical treatment and was camping in a nearby dry creek bed because she couldn’t afford a place to stay on her welfare income.


“Lots of people in the creek,” she said. “Lots of children.”


The roots of the 15-year alcohol ban were a national media firestorm that erupted in 2006 over a handful of graphic and highly publicized allegations of child sexual abuse in the Northern Territory.


Many of the allegations were later found to be baseless. But just months before a federal election, the conservative prime minister at the time used them to justify a draconian set of race-based measures. Among them were the alcohol restrictions, along with mandatory income management for welfare recipients and restrictions on Indigenous people’s rights to manage land that they owned.


Now, the debate has flared up again at another politically charged moment, as Australia begins to discuss constitutionally enshrining a “voice to Parliament” — an Indigenous body that would advise on policies that affect Aboriginal communities.


Opponents have used the Alice Springs debate to argue that the proposal distracts from practical issues facing Indigenous communities. Supporters say that such a body would have allowed more consultation with affected residents and prevented the problem from escalating.


Indigenous leaders say that the roots of the dysfunction in their communities run deep. A lack of job opportunities has left poverty entrenched, which in turn has exacerbated family violence. Soaring Indigenous incarceration rates have left parents locked away and children adrift. Government controls on Aboriginal people’s lives, imposed without consultation, have bred resentment and hopelessness. Add alcohol to the mix, and the problems only mount.


“We’ve never had our own choice and decision making, our lives have been controlled by others,” said Cherisse Buzzacott, who works to improve Indigenous families’ health literacy. Because of this, she added, those in the most disadvantaged communities “don’t have belief changes can change; they don’t have hope.”


Some Indigenous leaders oppose the alcohol ban on these grounds, arguing that it continues the history of control of Aboriginal communities. Others say that their own contributions to the community show why blanket bans are unfair.


“Some of my mob, some are workers and some are just sitting down, haven’t got a job,” said Benedict Stevens, the president of the Hidden Valley town camp, using a colloquial term for an Aboriginal group. “And what I’m saying is it wouldn’t be fair for us workers to not be able to go back home during the weekends, relax, have some beers.”


Before the alcohol ban expired last year, a coalition of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal organizations predicted that a sudden free flow of alcohol would produce a sharp rise in crime. They called for the restrictions to be extended so affected communities could have time to develop individualized transition plans.


The predictions proved accurate. According to the Northern Territory police, commercial breaks-ins, property damage, assaults related to domestic violence and alcohol-related assaults all rose by about or by more than 50 percent from 2021 to 2022. Australia does not break down crime data by race, but politicians and Aboriginal groups themselves have attributed the increase largely to Indigenous people.


“This was a preventable situation,” said Donna Ah Chee, the chief executive of one of these organizations, the Central Australian Aboriginal Congress. “It was Aboriginal women, families and children that were actually paying the price,” she added.


The organization was among those that called for a resumption of the ban as an immediate step while long-term solutions were developed to address the underlying drivers of destructive drinking. Ms. Ah Chee said she considered the policy to be “positive discrimination” in protecting those most vulnerable.


What Indigenous leaders on all sides of the debate agreed on was that long-term strategies were needed to address the complex disadvantages facing Indigenous communities.


The problems in Alice Springs were caused by decades of failing to listen to Indigenous people, said William Tilmouth, an Aboriginal elder. The answers, he added, would be found when “politicians and the public looked beyond the alcohol. What they will find is people with voice, strength and solutions waiting to be heard.”



12) Lawyers to Face Off Before Judge in Closely Watched Abortion Pills Case

The first hearing in a lawsuit that seeks to overturn F.D.A. approval of the pills takes place Wednesday morning in Texas.

By Pam Belluck, March 15, 2023

Pam Belluck, who has been writing about reproductive health for over a decade, traveled to Amarillo, Texas, to cover the hearing in the abortion pill case.

A man in a blue suit speaking in court. His name, Mr. Matthew J. Kacsmaryk, is on a white card in front of him.
It is unclear whether Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk will rule from the bench at the end of the hearing. Credit...U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary

A hearing Wednesday in a lawsuit that seeks to overturn federal approval of a widely used abortion pill will provide the first opportunity to hear the arguments of the anti-abortion groups that filed the lawsuit and of the Food and Drug Administration, which is fighting to keep the abortion pill legal.


The lawsuit, which seeks to end more than 20 years of legal use of medications for abortion, could have widespread implications in states where abortion is legal, not just where it is illegal. Medication abortion is used in more than half of pregnancy terminations in the United States and 40 percent of clinics that provide abortion services offer abortion pills only, not the surgical procedure.


The hearing on Wednesday will revolve around the plaintiffs’ request that Judge Matthew J. Kacsmaryk of the Northern District in Texas grant a preliminary injunction ordering the F.D.A. to withdraw its longstanding approval of mifepristone, the first pill in the two-drug medication abortion regimen, while the case proceeds through trial.


Judge Kacsmaryk, a Trump appointee who has written critically about Roe v. Wade and previously worked for a Christian conservative legal organization, took some unusual steps leading up to the hearing. In a meeting last Friday with lawyers for the parties in the case, he asked them to keep quiet about the fact that a hearing had been scheduled and told them he planned to delay making the public aware of it and would only enter it into the public court record the evening before.


In a transcript of the Friday meeting obtained by The New York Times, Judge Kacsmaryk said that other aspects of the case have “brought a barrage of death threats and protesters and the rest” and that he wanted to avoid an “unnecessary circus-like atmosphere” that might disrupt the lawyers’ presentations in court.


Despite the judge’s request, news organizations learned about the hearing and reported it. Members of groups that support abortion rights are planning to demonstrate outside the court building while the hearing is in progress, including by wearing kangaroo and judge costumes to protest what they consider to be a “kangaroo court” and by driving a truck around the city streets with a billboard that will say “a majority of Americans support abortion access.”


The lawsuit claims that the F.D.A. did not adequately review the scientific evidence or follow proper protocols when it approved mifepristone in 2000 and that it has since ignored safety risks of the medication.


The F.D.A. and the Department of Justice, which is representing the F.D.A., have strongly disputed those claims, saying the F.D.A.’s rigorous reviews of mifepristone over the years had repeatedly reaffirmed its decision to approve mifepristone, which blocks a hormone that allows a pregnancy to develop.


It is unclear if the judge will rule at the end of the session Wednesday. Most legal experts expect that he will make his decision at a later date.


Here are some of the issues that the judge has asked lawyers to be prepared to discuss at the hearing:


Whether the plaintiffs have legal standing to bring the lawsuit


The plaintiffs are led by the Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine, an organization that lists five anti-abortion groups as its members. Shortly after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, the alliance was incorporated in August in Amarillo, where Judge Kacsmaryk is the only federal judge.


The five groups are not based in Amarillo, but Erik Baptist, senior counsel for the Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative Christian legal advocacy group that is representing the plaintiffs, said that some of the groups’ members are in the Amarillo area, as is one of the four doctors who are plaintiffs in the case.


The plaintiffs contend they have legal standing to sue as parties who experienced injury from the F.D.A. approval because they have treated women who they say have suffered harm from abortion pills. Legal experts, including some conservative legal scholars, said it might be difficult to support a claim that the plaintiffs have standing because the harm they are claiming could be considered several steps removed from the F.D.A.’s approving the drug. The intermediate steps include patients choosing to take the drug and then seeking medical care.


If the judge were to decide that the plaintiffs do not have legal standing to sue, then the case could not proceed.


Whether this lawsuit is an appropriate legal challenge to the F.D.A.’s authority


The judge has indicated that he expects the parties to discuss issues related to the F.D.A.’s authority to approve and regulate drugs. Some legal experts have pointed to constitutional provisions and Congressional actions that suggest that the F.D.A. has overarching authority that cannot be second-guessed by a court. Legal experts say that if the judge were to rule for the plaintiffs, it would apparently be the first time a court had acted to order that a drug be removed from the market over the objection of the F.D.A.


The F.D.A. has also said in its filing in the case that there is a six-year statute of limitations to challenge the agency’s actions and that the plaintiffs are bringing this lawsuit much too late.


The plaintiffs argue that their lawsuit is an appropriate legal action.


Did the F.D.A. err in approving mifepristone under the regulation used at the time?


Mifepristone was initially approved in 2000 under a set of regulations called “Subpart H,” which was created to expedite the approval of drugs “that have been studied for their safety and effectiveness in treating serious or life-threatening illnesses.”


The lawsuit alleges that mifepristone did not qualify for this type of approval because the plaintiffs say that “pregnancy is not an illness.”


The approval process for mifepristone was not expedited — it took over four years — but the F.D.A. applied Subpart H, which allowed the agency to impose additional restrictions on use of the drug, including requiring health care providers to have special qualifications to prescribe it and dispense it only in certain medical settings.


The F.D.A. argues that “illness” is a term that generally applies to medical conditions, not only to diseases. The agency says that any confusion in semantics was cleared up several years later when Congress created a new regulatory framework that used the term “disease or condition.”


Are abortion medications unsafe?


The plaintiffs claim that the pills, which they call “chemical abortion,” cause “cramping, heavy bleeding and severe pain” and that the F.D.A. has never adequately evaluated the scientific evidence for safety.


The F.D.A. vigorously disputes this claim, as do mainstream medical organizations. They say that bleeding and cramping are normal consequences of the process, a sign that the pregnancy tissue is being expelled, and cite years of scientific studies that show that serious complications are rare. The organizations note that mifepristone has actually been regulated much more strictly and studied more intensively than most other drugs.


For a dozen years, the F.D.A. has imposed on mifepristone an additional framework of restrictions and monitoring called a Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy, or REMS. It is a framework that has been used for only about 300 other drugs. In recent years, the F.D.A. has extensively reviewed new data on mifepristone and concluded that the drug was safe enough to lift several of the restrictions, including the requirement that patients obtain the drug in person from a provider.



13) A Rush to Mine the Deep Sea Is Underway. It Must Be Stopped.

By Diva Amon, March 15, 2023

Dr. Amon, a marine biologist, is the director of SpeSeas, an ocean conservation group based in Trinidad and Tobago, and a researcher and adviser at the Benioff Ocean Science Laboratory at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

"Nauru, one of the world’s smallest nations, with a population of around 11,000, is the sponsor of Nauru Ocean Resources Inc., a subsidiary of a Canadian firm, the Metals Company. That company wants to mine parts of a region known as the Clarion-Clipperton Zone, between Hawaii and Mexico, for polymetallic nodules. These nodules contain many of the base metals now required to make batteries, and the Metals Company says they offer “the cleanest path toward electric vehicles.” (Companies must be sponsored by a country under the treaty to engage in mining.)"


An illustration of two men in suits and ties shaking hands looming above ships engaged in ocean mining.
Myriam Wares

Descending to the depths of the ocean is part of my job as a deep-sea biologist. Traveling three miles below the sea surface never ceases to uplift me. I’ve seen strange and wonderful creatures, from anemones with seven-foot tentacles that billow across the seafloor, to sharks that glow in the dark, 1,000-year-old corals and blind white crabs sustained by bacteria they cultivate on their claws.


The deep sea is a trove of biodiversity, rich in living resources used in medicines and critical in regulating the climate and providing spawning and feeding grounds for fish. The planet would not be the same without it.


But the ocean is facing plenty of problems. Pollution can be found in every marine ecosystem, from the estimated 11 million metric tons of plastic entering the ocean every year to toxic chemicals accumulating in animals living in the deepest deep-sea trenches. The waters are becoming warmer, more acidic and less rich in oxygen. Twenty percent to 25 percent of marine species are already at considerable risk of extinction.


Now a new threat looms.


The ocean could be the next frontier for mining. An obscure but consequential organization formed under the United Nations Law of the Sea treaty is finalizing regulations for mining activities in over 40 percent of the planet’s surface. Approval of these rules, in the works since 2014, could come possibly as soon as July. After that, a scramble to mine the deep sea could commence. And once it begins, there will be little hope of reining it in.


Why the rush? In June 2021, the Pacific Island nation of Nauru, one of the 167 member nations plus the European Union of the regulatory organization, the International Seabed Authority, invoked a provision of the treaty that requires the authority to adopt rules for deep-sea mining within 24 months. Nauru, one of the world’s smallest nations, with a population of around 11,000, is the sponsor of Nauru Ocean Resources Inc., a subsidiary of a Canadian firm, the Metals Company. That company wants to mine parts of a region known as the Clarion-Clipperton Zone, between Hawaii and Mexico, for polymetallic nodules. These nodules contain many of the base metals now required to make batteries, and the Metals Company says they offer “the cleanest path toward electric vehicles.” (Companies must be sponsored by a country under the treaty to engage in mining.)


Nauru’s action could open much of the high seas to deep-sea mining, permanently altering near-pristine and vast areas of the ocean.


Some deep-sea mining companies argue that extracting minerals such as copper, nickel and cobalt from the ocean floor is more sustainable than extracting them from land-based mines. But what little independent science there is to back their claims is contested.


I led a team of 30 other scientists from around the world in a comprehensive study published in the journal Marine Policy last year that found that “there are few categories of publicly available scientific knowledge comprehensive enough to enable evidence-based decision-making regarding environmental management” of deep-sea mining. We added that “closing the scientific gaps” is a “monumental task that is essential to fulfilling the overarching obligation to prevent serious harm and ensure effective protection, and will require clear direction, substantial resources and robust coordination and collaboration.”


We’re still nowhere near closing those gaps.


There is also a growing body of evidence that mining hundreds of thousands of square miles of ocean floor could inflict irreversible damage on ocean health. Huge machines would be sent down to the ocean floor that scrape up minerals — and everything else in their way — creating plumes of sediment that would spread for many miles into the surrounding waters and emitting noise and light that disturb dark, quiet ecosystems in the deep seas that took eons to develop. A recent analysis of the seabed authority’s process of assessing the environmental impact of exploration found it to be “severely deficient, both in procedure and in substance.” The study was the work of scientists and legal scholars from 11 nations.


What’s also deeply worrisome is that the companies and countries lobbying the seabed authority to open the deep sea to mining don’t appear to prioritize equity in their plans. The oceans and their resources are, as the Law of the Sea puts it, “the common heritage of mankind” and are an especially integral part of the culture and well-being of ocean-dependent communities. The resources are supposed to be “vested in mankind as a whole,” according to the U.N. treaty, and should be managed to ensure that any mining benefits as many people as possible. Right now, there is no mechanism to accomplish this.


Concerns have also been raised that the seabed authority doesn’t display the transparency, objectivity and science-based decision-making critical for overseeing such a fraught and nearly impossible-to-monitor industry. There is no robust and inclusive engagement of all those with a stake and no transparent decision-making processes. Because of these issues, deep-sea mining lacks “social legitimacy,” as seven ocean experts and I argued last month in a comment in the journal npj Ocean Sustainability. Without that legitimacy, we said, “investors and consumers might reject seabed minerals and their use.”


A seabed authority meeting scheduled to begin Thursday in Jamaica offers the opportunity to put the brakes on this dash to excavate the deep sea. Member countries still have much to deliberate, and it now seems likely that they will be unable to reach an agreement in the near future, much less by the July 9 imposed by Nauru’s action. What that will mean is not entirely clear should mining companies submit applications to begin excavations in the absence of regulations.


More than 700 ocean experts have signed a statement urging a delay of deep-sea mining. Some major companies and banks have pledged similar support or created policies that exclude financing of deep-sea mining. And 12 countries have called for a moratorium on deep-sea mining, with France going further and pressing for an outright ban.


Fortunately, it’s not too late for governments to stop this rush before it starts. More countries must step up and say they will not approve deep-sea mining unless and until there is sufficient scientific research on the potential risks and strong regulations can be put in place to protect these hidden but vitally needed ecosystems. Once a moratorium is in place, countries then can take time to assess whether we really need to mine the deep ocean at all.