Bay Area United Against War Newsletter, April 24, 2023


Join Committee to Stop FBI Repression in the fight for...

Justice for the Tampa 5!

Drop the charges now! Defend student activists!


1.     Sign on to this statement as an individual/group and share widely:


2.  Call the university president and demand they drop the charges on the Tampa 5: (813)-417-5292

3.     Donate to support the Tampa 5: https://gofund.me/5765e559

4.     Follow Tampa Bay SDS on Twitter and Facebook for updates

About the Tampa 5

On March 6, 2023, members of Tampa Bay Students for a Democratic Society held a rally on the University of South Florida campus to defend diversity in higher education. At the rally, four women activists were suddenly and violently assaulted by USF police before being arrested. Later, on April 4, another student received a communication of the university’s intent to charge her with additional misdemeanors and a felony – just like the other 4 activists.


The Tampa 5 – Chrisley Carpio, Gia Davila, Lauren Pineiro, Laura Rodriguez, and Jeanie K. deserve our support. They disrupted no campus activities, damaged no property, and did nothing wrong. Several video recordings of the event show the aggressive and unprovoked way that USF police grabbed these young women, slammed them into walls, groped them inappropriately, and placed them in chokeholds. Video captured at the event has already amassed over 6 million views on TikTok, and can be viewed here.


In addition to alleged code of conduct violations and misdemeanor charges, the Tampa 5 are facing felony charges. Once again, the police are lying about what happened, despite video evidence clearly showing the police going on an unprovoked rampage. Several of the activists lost their jobs after these unjust arrests. Chrisley Carpio is a union member (AFSCME Local 3342) and is still fighting to save her job at the University despite having a spotless record.


The administration at the University of South Florida want to intimidate students and youth who exercise their freedom of speech. The activists held the original rally on March 6 to protect higher education from Governor Ron DeSantis’s attacks on diversity, equality, inclusion (DEI) and multicultural programs. There is absolutely no evidence that the Tampa 5 or any of the activists did anything to provoke the outrageous response from campus police. The hearings concerning the expulsion of student activists who were violently attacked must be stopped and the code of conduct charges against them dropped.


We support these brave women and demand that the charges against the Tampa 5 be dropped immediately. We stand in solidarity with the Tampa 5 and show our unwavering commitment to defending all who stand for peace, higher learning, and diversity.


Drop the charges now! Bring Chrisley back to work! 

Defend diversity in higher education! Activism is not a crime!



Public complaint about the health condition of Venezuelan diplomat Alex Saab, illegally imprisoned in the United States

On Friday, March 16, 2023, Camilla Saab made an urgent call to the world to denounce the dire health condition of Venezuelan diplomat Alex Saab, which endangers his life.

In July 2021, the Working Group against Torture and several UN rapporteurs expressed their concern about the irreparable deterioration of Alex Saab's health condition.  

Let us recall that in Cape Verde, on July 7, 2021, after many refusals, Alex Saab was visited by his family doctor, who, in his report, detected a worrying health condition of the Venezuelan official, especially because Saab is a stomach cancer survivor. The doctor diagnosed: anemia, anorexia, diabetes mellitus type 2, hypothyroidism, hypertension, and high risk of thromboembolic disease, including pulmonary embolism and deep vein thrombosis. In addition, he highlighted that a high infection by the bacterium Helicobacter pylori was found in his blood, and an endoscopy identified bleeding from the digestive tract that could mean a recurrence of cancer. Saab's lower left molar was found broken due to the beatings received during the torture, and access to proper medical care was recommended. However, he was never allowed to receive treatment.  

Subsequently, the treating physician issued, on September 9, 2021, a new report highlighting the need for patient Alex Saab to receive specialized medical care and asked the authorities of Cape Verde to consider the need to preserve the health and life of Alex Saab. Cape Verde did nothing in this regard.  

Alex Saab arrived in the United States, kidnapped for the second time on October 16, 2021, and from that moment until today, he has not received any medical attention according to the primary diseases that had been reported, ignoring the call of the UN rapporteurs. Alex Saab is in the Federal Detention Center in Miami, and his prison situation is even worse than in Cape Verde: he has not been allowed family visits. He has not seen his wife and children, who have also been victims of persecution by the U.S. authorities and their allies, for more than two years and eight months. 

Alex Saab has also not been allowed consular visits, a human right of every prisoner deprived of liberty. The U.S. State Department has yet to respond to the Venezuelan State's request to grant him a consular visit, as established in Article 36 of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations.  

In the medical reports made in July, Alex Saab's doctor had already informed that they had identified bleeding from the digestive tract, which could mean a cancer recurrence. Now, it is highly alarming to learn that Alex has been vomiting blood for weeks, and despite having reported it to the U.S. authorities, there is still a lack of medical attention at the prison. Why has the U.S. not bothered to treat him?  

Everything indicates that the lack of medical attention is part of a State policy, as was his illegal arrest. Do U.S. authorities want Alex Saab dead? Why, then, the insistence on not providing him with medical attention and not allowing his doctor to visit him? 

Everyone knows that the truth is on the side of the Venezuelan diplomat, and sooner or later, the United States must release him, but they are taking more time than usual. Could it be that they are waiting for his illnesses to develop further? 

We, the #FreeAlexSaab Movement, hold the U.S. Government responsible for diplomat Alex Saab's life and what may happen to him during his illegal detention.

·      We ask that the International Committee of the Red Cross to be present at the Federal Detention Center in Miami-USA. 

·      We urge the High Commissioner of the UN Human Rights to take action and denounce this violation of the human rights of the Venezuelan diplomat illegally detained in U.S. territory. 

·      We request the Secretary General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, as the highest defender of International Law, to make an announcement on this case, which constitutes a flagrant violation of international law and human rights. 

·      We demand immediate freedom for Alex Saab Moran, the Venezuelan diplomat kidnapped in the United States. We urgently require a humanitarian, political, and diplomatic solution to this unjust situation. 

It is time to move forward. We urge the U.S. Government to sit down and reach an agreement. Venezuela has shown to be open to finding a solution.



Previously Recorded

View on YouTube:




Featured Speakers:


Yuliya Yurchenko, Senior Lecturer at the University of Greenwich and author of Ukraine and the Empire of Capital: From Marketization to Armed Conflict.


Vladyslav Starodubstev, historian of Central and Eastern European region, and member of the Ukrainian democratic socialist organization Sotsialnyi Rukh.


Kirill Medvedev, poet, political writer, and member of the Russian Socialist Movement.


Kavita Krishnan, Indian feminist, author of Fearless Freedom, former leader of the Communist Party of India (ML).


Bill Fletcher, former President of TransAfrica Forum, former senior staff person at the AFL-CIO, and Senior Scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies.


Including solidarity statements from among others Barbara Smith, Eric Draitser, Haley Pessin, Ramah Kudaimi, Dave Zirin, Frieda Afary, Jose La Luz, Rob Barrill, and Cindy Domingo.



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





Update and Urgent Health Call-In Campaign for Political 

Prisoner Ed Poindexter

April 15, 2023

Dear Comrades and Friends:


We just received news that Ed Poindexter's left leg was amputated below the knee earlier this month due to lack of proper medical care. Ed has diabetes and receives dialysis three days a week. He underwent triple bypass heart surgery in 2016.


Please support Ed by sending him a letter of encouragement to:


Ed Poindexter #27767

Reception and Treatment Center

P.O. Box 22800

Lincoln, NE 68542-2800


Ed has a cataract in one eye that makes it difficult for him to read, so please type your letter in 18 point or larger font. The Nebraska Department of Corrections does not plan to allow Ed to have surgery for the cataract because "he has one good eye."




Warden Boyd of the

Reception and Treatment Center



Warden Wilhelm of the

Nebraska State Penitentiary



Governor Pillen, the

State of Nebraska Office of the Governor



Director Rob Jeffreys,

Nebraska Department of Corrections



The Nebraska Board of Pardons

(Email: ne.pardonsboard@nebraska.gov). 


Please sustain calls daily from April 15th to May 30th, 2023 for this intensive campaign, and thereafter as you can. 


[Any relief for Ed will be announced via email and social media].


Sample Message:


“Ed Poindexter’s family noticed blood on his feet several weeks ago. Then in April 2023, his niece and brother found out that Ed’s leg had been amputated earlier in the month. All of this happened without notifying Ed’s family, within the ‘skilled nursing facility’ at the Reception and Treatment Center, which specializes in behavioral issues and suicide watch, and is not primarily a rehab medical unit. Ed is on dialysis several days per week and is wheelchair bound, and is not able to shower or change without much more direct support than he is currently getting. The Nebraska Department of Corrections admits that their facilities are severely overcrowded and understaffed.  I, ___________,  join Ed’s family in demanding that Ed be given a compassionate release, and that he be immediately transferred to a local hospital or rehabilitation facility, not under direction of the Department of Corrections—where the standard of care is decent and humane.”


  Warden: Taggart Boyd

Reception and Treatment Center

P.O. Box 22800

Lincoln, NE 68542-2800

Phone: 402-471-2861

Fax: 402-479-6100


  Warden Michelle Wilhelm 

Nebraska State Penitentiary

Phone: 402-471-3161

4201 S 14th Street

Lincoln, NE 68502


  Governor Jim Pillen

Phone: 402-471-2244

PO Box 94848

Lincoln, NE 68509-4848



  Rob Jeffreys

Director, Nebraska Department of Corrections

Phone: 402-471-2654

PO Box 94661

Lincoln, Nebraska 68509


  Nebraska Board of Pardons

PO Box 95007

Lincoln, Nebraska 68509

Email: ne.pardonsboard@nebraska.gov


You can read more about Ed Poindexter at:



Questions and comments may be sent to info@freedomarchives.org




National Mobilization for Reproductive Justice

ReproJusticeNow.org info@reprojusticenow.org 

Facebook @ ReproJusticeNow

Statement to the Media


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.



Bigotry Comes in Many Forms: We Oppose the Targeting of Huwaida Arraf and Silencing of the Palestinian Narrative with Bogus Charges of Antisemitism


Sign petition at:



We, the undersigned, are extremely concerned about the recent attacks on Huwaida Arraf, a highly respected Palestinian-American civil rights attorney and longtime human rights activist. It is clear that these attacks are politically motivated attempts to discredit Huwaida’s message and silence all advocates of Palestinian rights. It is dangerous and we must not tolerate it. Smears and lies have been widely hurled at Huwaida, and death threats to Arab and Muslim students.

To sign this petition, please scroll down below the partial list of names and your name will be added.

These attacks have come in the aftermath of Huwaida’s participation in a Bloomfield Hills High School diversity assembly on March 14, 2023. Huwaida was invited by the student organizers of the assembly to speak alongside four other speakers about her experiences dealing with racism. The goal of the assembly was to promote diversity and acceptance, and raise awareness of the dangers of racism and discrimination.  

Huwaida spoke about her work campaigning for Palestinian freedom and human rights, which includes co-founding an organization that brings people of all religions, ethnicities, and nationalities together to bear witness on the ground and support the Palestinian struggle for freedom. Huwaida spoke about the importance of dismantling systems of oppression, which are built on racist ideologies, and she urged students to remember that all human beings are deserving of the same rights that we want for ourselves. 

Following the assembly, Zionist organizations launched a campaign to pressure the school to apologize for allowing Huwaida to speak, calling her and her comments “hateful” and “antisemitic.” This was followed by a special board meeting where multiple individuals were permitted to malign Huwaida’s character using racist tropes and falsehoods. Meanwhile, the students who spoke up eloquently to debunk the lies were marginalized, as the school board promised to take steps to ensure that “mistakes like this” do not happen again. The principal of the school, an African American, has been put on administrative leave, and the pressure continues to fire him and other school administrators. 

It is not a mistake or antisemitic to invite a Palestinian speaker to participate in a diversity assembly. Nor is it a mistake or antisemitic to invite a speaker to talk about Palestinian rights. The mistake is equating speech about Palestinian rights and the erasure of the Palestinian lived experience with antisemitism. It is a deliberate tactic that has been used for years to intimidate people into silence about the atrocities being committed by the state of Israel against the Palestinian people. This tactic not only harms Palestinians and supporters of Palestinian rights, but it does a great disservice to the fight against real antisemitism by conflating the Palestinian struggle for liberation and criticism of the Israeli government’s policies with those who brandish swastikas and attack synagogues. 

We stand with Huwaida and the student organizers of the diversity assembly against these baseless attacks and nefarious defamation. We call on Jewish community leaders and organizations, and other social justice, human rights, and religious leaders and organizations to recognize the harm caused by denying the Palestinian experience and making false accusations of antisemitism. 

We call on the Bloomfield Hills school administration to reject all efforts to conflate speech about Palestinian rights with antisemitism. And, we call on everyone everywhere to remember the words of the late civil rights leader Fannie Lou Hamer —“nobody’s free until everybody’s free” — and to stand with the Palestinian people in their struggle to be free. 





Updates From Kevin Cooper 

March 23, 2023 

Dear Friends and Comrades, 

This is Kevin Cooper writing and sending this update to you in 'Peace & Solidarity'. First and foremost I am well and healthy, and over the ill effect(s) that I went through after that biased report from MoFo, and their pro prosecution and law enforcement experts. I am back working with my legal team from Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP.

'We' have made great progress in refuting all that those experts from MoFo came up with by twisting the truth to fit their narrative, or omitting things, ignoring, things, and using all the other tactics that they did to reach their conclusions. Orrick has hired four(4) real experts who have no questionable backgrounds. One is a DNA attorney, like Barry Scheck of the innocence project in New York is for example. A DNA expert, a expect to refute what they say Jousha Ryen said when he was a child, and his memory. A expect on the credibility of MoFo's experts, and the attorney's at Orrick are dealing with the legal issues.

This all is taking a little longer than we first expected it to take, and that in part is because 'we' have to make sure everything is correct in what we have in our reply. We cannot put ourselves in a situation where we can be refuted... Second, some of our experts had other things planned, like court cases and such before they got the phone call from Rene, the now lead attorney of the Orrick team. With that being said, I can say that our experts, and legal team have shown, and will show to the power(s) that be that MoFo's DNA expert could not have come to the conclusion(s) that he came to, without having used 'junk science'! They, and by they I mean my entire legal team, including our experts, have done what we have done ever since Orrick took my case on in 2004, shown that all that is being said by MoFo's experts is not true, and we are once again having to show what the truth really is.

Will this work with the Governor? Who knows... 'but' we are going to try! One of our comrades, Rebecca D.   said to me, 'You and Mumia'...meaning that my case and the case of Mumia Abu Jamal are cases in which no matter what evidence comes out supporting our innocence, or prosecution misconduct, we cannot get a break. That the forces in the so called justice system won't let us go. 'Yes' she is correct about that sad to say...

Our reply will be out hopefully in the not too distant future, and that's because the people in Sacramento have been put on notice that it is coming, and why. Every one of you will receive our draft copy of the reply according to Rene because he wants feedback on it. Carole and others will send it out once they receive it. 'We' were on the verge of getting me out, and those people knew it, so they sabotaged what the Governor ordered them to do, look at all the evidence as well as the DNA evidence. They did not do that, they made this a DNA case, by doing what they did, and twisted the facts on the other issues that they dealt with.   'more later'...

In Struggle & Solidarity,

March 28, 2023

"Today is March 28, 2023

I spoke to Rene, the lead attorney. He hopes to have our reply [to the Morrison Forster report] done by April 14 and sent out with a massive Public Relations blast.

He said that the draft copy, which everyone will see, should be available April 10th. 

I will have a visit with two of the attorneys to go over the draft copy and express any concerns I have with it.

MoFo ex-law enforcement “experts” are not qualified to write what they wrote or do what they did.

Another of our expert reports has come in and there are still two more that we’re waiting for—the DNA report and Professor Bazelon’s report on what an innocence investigation is and what it is not. We are also expecting a report from the Innocence Network. All the regional Innocence Projects (like the Northern California Innocence Project) in the country belong to the Innocence Network.

If MoFo had done the right thing, I would be getting out of here, but because they knew that, somewhere along the line they got hijacked, so we have to continue this fight but we think we can win."

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


Background on Kevin's Case


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) My Continent Is Not Your Giant Climate Laboratory

By Chukwumerije Okereke, April 18, 2023

Dr. Okereke is director of the Center for Climate Change and Development at Alex Ekwueme Federal University in Nigeria.


A photo illustration of the sun being eclipsed by engineering specs.

Illustration by The New York Times; photographs by Amy Boyle/EyeEm and teekid via Getty

Several environmentalists last year presented Africa’s leading climate negotiators with a bold idea: A technology called solar geoengineering could protect their countries from the worst effects of climate change, they said. While insisting they were impartial, representatives from the Carnegie Climate Governance Initiative said that these technologies, which claim to be able to re-engineer the climate itself, either by dimming the sun’s rays or reflecting sunlight away from the earth, could quickly and cheaply turn the tide of dangerously rising temperatures — and that poor countries might have the most to gain.


It wasn’t the first time Westerners have tried to persuade Africans that solar engineering projects may be in our best interest. And it won’t be the last. In May, another international nonprofit, the Climate Overshoot Commission, headquartered in Paris, is hosting an event in Nairobi to help drum up support for research on solar geoengineering and other related technologies it says could be helpful in reducing risks when the world exceeds its global warming targets.


As a climate expert, I consider these environmental manipulation techniques extremely risky. And as an African climate expert, I strongly object to the idea that Africa should be turned into a testing ground for their use. Even if solar geoengineering can help deflect heat and improve weather conditions on the ground — a prospect that is unproven on any relevant scale — it’s not a long-term solution to climate change. It sends a message to the world that we can carry on over-consuming and polluting because we will be able to engineer our way out of the problem.


The solar engineering technology attracting the most attention would use balloons or aircraft to spray large quantities of aerosols — tiny particles of, for example, sulfur dioxide or engineered nanoparticles — into the stratosphere to dim the sunlight. It’s called solar radiation management and it’s highly speculative. Without using the whole earth as a laboratory, it’s impossible to know whether it would dim anything, let alone how it would affect ecosystems, people and the global climate.


Other proposed techniques include covering deserts with plastic; genetically engineering plants to have brighter, more reflective leaves; creating or making clouds whiter; and deploying millions of mirrors in space. The point of all of them is to counter warming by reducing the amount of sunlight reaching the planet and reflecting it back to the stratosphere.


Africa is already suffering the effects of climate change, such as drought, floods and erratic weather. And while geoengineering advocates see these technologies as a solution to such problems, the technologies run the danger of upsetting local and regional weather patterns — intensifying drought or flooding, for example, or disrupting monsoon cycles. And the long-term impact on regional climate and seasons is still largely unknown. Millions, perhaps billions, of people’s livelihoods could be undermined.


These technologies would also theoretically need to be deployed essentially forever to keep warming at bay. Stopping would unleash the suppressed warming of the carbon dioxide still accumulating in the atmosphere in a temperature spike known as “termination shock.” One study found that the temperature change after ending solar radiation management could be up to four times as large as what’s being caused by climate change itself.


The other risk is that geoengineering will divert attention and investments from building renewable energy and other climate solutions in Africa. The continent has received only 2 percent of global investments in renewable energy in the last two decades, and the lack of access to capital is perhaps the biggest obstacle for countries that would like to cut down on fossil fuels.


Funding does not seem to be a problem for geoengineering researchers, however, particularly those in the United States. The Harvard Solar Geoengineering Research Program has been expanding rapidly, supported by Bill Gates and philanthropists from Silicon Valley, while George Soros recently announced his intention to back solar geoengineering projects in the Arctic. The University of Chicago has also this month announced the creation of the Climate Systems Engineering Initiative to partner with national labs to explore these and other strategies.


But should we even be studying geoengineering at all? More than 400 senior climate scientists and scholars from around the world have called for an International Non-Use Agreement on Solar Geoengineering. If it goes before the United Nations, it could result in a ban on real-world research on this technology.


Regardless, advocates have tried to entice African governments by offering to fund research projects, claiming that more research will shed more light on the dangers and benefits of the technology. One such organization, the Degrees Initiative, says its mission is to put “developing countries at the center” of the discussion around solar radiation management. But this just appears to be a way of trying to make Africa a test case for an unproven technology. Indeed more studies into this hypothetical solution look like steps toward development and a slippery slope to eventual deployment.


A striking example of rogue solar geoengineering is the case of the American start-up Make Sunsets, which recently launched balloons from Mexico to inject sulfur into the atmosphere with the claim this would offset carbon emissions. Data on the balloons’ final location, what happened with the released particles and any impact on warming were never made public.


The Mexican government was unaware of the exercise until after the fact, at which point officials swiftly announced a ban on solar geoengineering activities. The decision to test the technology without permission or notice was reckless, and the decision to do it in Latin America echoed some of the worst aspects of colonialism.


African nations should strongly resist letting their territories be used for experimental exercises like this. And they must join efforts to strengthen the de facto moratorium (under the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity) on the development and deployment of these technologies. The technologies are potentially dangerous, and a major distraction from the real change that we all know wealthier nations need to make if we have a hope of outrunning climate devastation.



2) Shooting of Teen Who Rang Doorbell at Wrong House Unsettles Kansas City

Residents and friends of the victim were searching for answers as the 84-year-old homeowner surrendered to the authorities on two felony charges.

By Mitch Smith and Julie Bosman, April 18, 2023


Protesters marched in Kansas City, Mo., on Sunday to bring attention to the shooting.

Protesters marched in Kansas City, Mo., on Sunday to bring attention to the shooting. Credit...Susan Pfannmuller/The Kansas City Star, via Associated Press

Screenshot of students walking out of Staley High School, Kansas City, MO, on April 18, 2023, in a display of anger and support for their fellow student, Ralph Yarl, who was shot twice after going to the wrong address to pick up his younger, twin brothers.

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — On Tuesday morning, hundreds of Staley High School students filled the street outside their school in a display of anger and support for their fellow student, Ralph Yarl, who was shot by a homeowner after he rang a doorbell at the wrong house in Kansas City last week. One sign read, “We Walk for Ralph.” Another demanded, “Justice 4 Ralph Yarl.”


By day’s end, they found some measure of relief, as Andrew D. Lester, the 84-year-old man accused of shooting Ralph, surrendered to the authorities after being charged with assault in the first degree and armed criminal action.


But many residents of Kansas City remained deeply troubled by the events that had shaken their city for the last several days. Some asked why Mr. Lester was released from police custody last week rather than being charged immediately. Others said that federal hate crime charges should be brought, in a case that the county prosecutor said had a racial component, as an older, white homeowner was accused of shooting an unarmed Black teenager. A few wondered if a jury would sympathize with Mr. Lester, who told the police that he was “scared to death” of being physically harmed before shooting Ralph.


In a country on edge over crime, the shooting was the latest example of an ordinary interaction — the ringing of a doorbell on a front step in a quiet neighborhood in Missouri — instantly turning into another shocking incident of American gun violence.


“I am, I think, sufficiently frightened over how easily we are willing to shoot each other,” said Representative Emanuel Cleaver, a Democrat who previously served as the first Black mayor of Kansas City.


At a gathering in downtown Kansas City on Tuesday afternoon, Karen Allman, who lives down the street from Mr. Lester, said that she found some satisfaction that he had turned himself in, but that she was still upset over what had happened — and that Mr. Lester had not been charged for several days after the shooting on Thursday night.


“I have no doubt that if it was a Black homeowner who shot a white kid on his porch, he would have stayed in jail until somebody pressed charges,” she said.


Jail records showed that Mr. Lester was released on bond from Clay County jail shortly after surrendering to the authorities on Tuesday. No lawyer was listed as representing him in court records, and it was not clear when he might appear in front of a judge.


Ralph, who had been sent to pick up his younger siblings when the shooting occurred, was recovering at home after being hospitalized with two gunshot wounds to his head and arm. In a CBS News interview on Tuesday, Cleo Nagbe, Ralph’s mother, said her son was doing “considerably well” after being shot above his left eye and in his upper right arm. Lee Merritt, a lawyer for the family, said Ralph was sitting up and playing with his dog on Tuesday. He said the teenager also spoke by phone with Vice President Kamala Harris.


Paul Yarl, Ralph’s father, said this week that his son, an athlete who loves music and video games, had surgery over the weekend to remove the bullets and was able to walk out of the hospital on Sunday. He is expected to make a full recovery.


The authorities in Kansas City released new details of their investigation, and in the neighborhood in far northern Kansas City where the shooting took place, residents said they were still stunned by the shooting and its aftermath.


There was little disagreement over what had transpired on Thursday night. According to the criminal complaint, at roughly 9:50 p.m., one resident heard something unusual: a vehicle pulling into Mr. Lester’s driveway. It was odd, the resident later told the police, for Mr. Lester to have a visitor this late at night.


Ralph had made an error common in Kansas City, driving to a house on Northeast 115th Street instead of Northeast 115th Terrace, a block away. He pressed the doorbell and waited outside the front door for what felt like a long time, he told the police later. Mr. Lester, who had just gone to bed, got up and opened the inside door while holding a revolver, according to a probable cause statement from investigators.


Mr. Lester told a police officer after the shooting that he saw a Black male “pulling on the exterior storm door handle.” This was one of the few areas of disagreement: When interviewed by a detective, Ralph said that he only rang the doorbell and did not pull on the door.


Within moments, Mr. Lester began shooting through the glass of the exterior storm door, afraid that a break-in was in progress, he told the police.


Ralph was shot in the head and then the arm. “Don’t come around here,” he remembers Mr. Lester saying, according to a detective. He got up and ran away, trying to elude more gunshots, he told the police.


Zach Dovel, 20, was across the street watching a podcast, in the house where he lives with his mother.


The two were startled by a bang on the front door; fearful that someone was trying to break in, they called 911. The operator, Mr. Dovel said, told them that there was a gunman on the loose and that they should stay inside.


But they could see a teenager in the driveway and went outside. He was limping and bleeding, wounded from gunshots. Mr. Dovel ran back inside and grabbed towels, while his mother talked to Ralph, asking questions and trying to keep him alert until the ambulance arrived.


“The worst part was seeing him get down on his knees — it looked like he was praying,” Mr. Dovel said. “He thought he was going to die.”


One of Ralph’s family members said that he went to three different houses before a neighbor would help him. Mr. Dovel said the police and an ambulance arrived in what felt like minutes, and once there was a police presence outside, more neighbors emerged from their homes.


The shooting happened near the northern edge of Kansas City, a sprawling municipality that is larger in size than New York City though its population is far smaller.


Known locally as the Northland, this stretch of Kansas City north of the Missouri River has a reputation of being more conservative and white than the city as a whole. That perception intensified in 2021 when a dispute over police funding contributed to talk of the Northland splitting from Kansas City. The area where the shooting took place resembles a working-class suburb, with single-family homes that have generous yards and no sidewalks.


Residents who were home on Tuesday said they were unsettled by the shooting but rejected the notion that it reflected on their neighborhood, which was swarmed by television cameras.


“They’re judging all of us, but everybody here is nice and decent,” said Vickie Mahterian, a neighbor. “People come to my door all the time. I don’t shoot them in the head. We are good people here.”


Dan Fowler, a City Council member whose district includes the shooting scene, said there was a broad sense of relief in Kansas City that charges had been filed and that the suspect was in custody.


“It doesn’t bring closure, but it brings a sense of closure that at least the process is going and that there is accountability,” Mr. Fowler said.


Mr. Fowler said Kansas City’s pattern for naming roads, in which there might be a terrace, street or boulevard with similar names near one another, made it easy to understand how Ralph ended up on the wrong porch.


“It’s very easy to get that confused if you are not particularly familiar with the area,” Mr. Fowler said. “I was stunned that somebody would go on such an innocent, everyday thing of picking up your siblings, and then he gets shot.”


S. David Mitchell, a law professor at the University of Missouri, said that a defense lawyer could try to invoke the castle doctrine, a law in Missouri that allows people to use deadly force to defend themselves without having to retreat.


The front porch, Mr. Mitchell said, “becomes the gray area of what constitutes one’s castle,” a question that the jury could consider.


“It’s created this narrative that if you’re ever in trouble, you can’t stop and ask a homeowner for assistance in case you’re shot.”



3) New Details Emerge in Deadly Upstate Shooting of Woman in Wrong Driveway

The man who fired on three vehicles that mistakenly drove up his driveway, killing a young woman, had a reputation as a sour character who did not like visitors.

By Jesse McKinley, Hurubie Meko and Jay Root, Published April 18, 2023, Updated April 19, 2023


A portrait of a young woman with long hair, wearing a silver necklace and floral blouse.
Kaylin Gillis died when a homeowner fired into the car she was traveling in. Credit...Chuchay Stark

HEBRON, N.Y. — The man who lived on the ridge above this little upstate town had long had a reputation among some residents as a sour character who barked at neighbors’ dogs, scolded a local church and was so averse to unannounced visitors that he had at one time used a chain to cordon off his quarter-mile-long drive.


On Saturday night, just before 10 p.m., Kaylin Gillis and a group of her friends were traveling in a caravan of two cars and a motorcycle that mistakenly drove up that same driveway. They were looking for a friend’s house — and were met with deadly gunfire, killing Ms. Gillis, 20.


It was warm, but overcast and dark, and the three vehicles, according to the county sheriff, turned off a highway and up the largely dirt road on which the man, Kevin Monahan, 65, lived, past several other homes.


They soon took a right turn into his drive, which is flanked by a tree with two worn “private property” signs, warning off trespassers, and a small “private drive” sign.


On Tuesday, a nearby resident, who declined to give his name because of the sensitivity surrounding the killing and the investigation, said he watched vehicles ascend the steep drive, their lights on, before seeing the motorcycle turn and start to descend.


Then, he heard a shot, followed by several seconds of silence. Then, a second shot rang out, though he and his wife initially believed it might have been fireworks.


“Our neighbor down the hill called and said, ‘Did you hear gunfire up there?’” the resident said. “And we said, ‘Oh, we heard something.’”


He said he immediately called 911. But in an indication of how difficult the area is to navigate, those police officers initially also went up the wrong driveway, so he called 911 again. “It’s hard to get your bearings unless you’re from here,” he said.


Ms. Gillis’s killing shocked residents in the area and left the nation to wonder at yet another seemingly senseless gun death.


Mr. Monahan was charged with second-degree murder in an attack that the Washington County sheriff, Jeffrey J. Murphy, described as unprovoked and unexplained.


“There was no threat,” he said on Tuesday. “They were leaving.”


The killing came just days after the shooting in Kansas City of a Black 16-year-old, Ralph Yarl, who was shot by an 84-year-old white man after mistakenly going to the wrong house while trying to pick up his brothers at a friend’s home on Thursday evening. He survived but was badly injured.


Unlike that case, what happened in Hebron did not have racial overtones: Ms. Gillis was white, and so is Mr. Monahan. But the aggression of the encounter and the idea that a simple wrong turn led to death nonetheless left many here and elsewhere shaken and wondering what prompted Mr. Monahan’s actions.


“I can’t imagine that this is something that someone who is my neighbor is capable of,” said Adam Matthews, who lives next to Mr. Monahan. “I don’t know what brings someone to that level.”


According to Sheriff Murphy, Ms. Gillis was one of four people in the last vehicle to turn around and was sitting in the front passenger seat when Mr. Monahan shot through the rear of the driver’s side.


“They all were still in proximity to the house and they all heard two gunshots,” he said. “They realized immediately that she had been shot, so they were frantically leaving the driveway.”


The cars soon fled, desperately searching for cell service, a challenge amid the rolling hills and sparse populations of Washington County, which borders Vermont. They finally found a cell signal about five miles away, on a road adjacent to a local cemetery.


Mr. Monahan was initially uncooperative when police arrived, according to Sheriff Murphy, who said that Mr. Monahan had refused to speak with investigators and “obtained a lawyer that night before he came out of the house.”


But Mr. Monahan’s lawyer, Kurt Mausert, disputed the sheriff’s account of the shooting, saying on Tuesday that the vehicles were speeding up the driveway, with engines revving and lights shining, which “certainly caused some level of alarm to an elderly gentleman who had an elderly wife.”


“Is that a fear-inducing scenario? Well maybe it is,” Mr. Mausert said. “It is not the simple scenario of these people took a wrong turn and within 20 seconds of them taking the wrong turn, this guy’s on his deck blasting away. That’s not what happened.”


Mr. Mausert added that Mr. Monahan “sincerely regrets this tragedy” and “feels terrible that there was a fatality,” but he scolded the sheriff for “basically acting as judge, jury and executioner.”


“When there’s a tragedy and a victim, everyone wants a villain,” he said. “But sometimes they’re just tragedies and victims and there are no villains. And this is one of those times.”


In an interview, Sheriff Murphy said that Ms. Gillis — a former competitive cheerleader, honor student and budding artist — was “a beautiful and kind soul” who had hoped to study marine biology.


“It’s just a tragic situation,” he said.


Albert Weils, a neighbor who lives three doors down from the Gillis family home in Schuylerville, about 25 miles southwest of Hebron, said that Ms. Gillis’s father, Andy Gillis, is a correction officer at Washington County Correctional Facility.


“We don’t think of stuff happening like that around here,” Mr. Weils said, adding, “It’s a total shame.”


The family was largely quiet on Tuesday, and Ms. Gillis’s grandfather, Jack Amodeo, said that they were huddled, trying to process the shooting. “It’s really brought us down to our knees,” he said.


Friends of the victim said that she and others may have been headed to a party held by other Schuylerville High School graduates when they went up the wrong driveway. “There was friends from this community who were at that party,” said Dallas Salls, who was a friend and works in a pizza place near the high school.


Her sister, Victoria Salls, 20, a close friend who was also a former downstairs neighbor in Schuylerville, said that Ms. Gillis was “the glue to her family.” She said that the shooting had made her and others scared to show up at someone’s door or pull into the wrong driveway.


And while she said she saw parallels with the Kansas City case, Ms. Salls noted that Ralph Yarl had somehow survived. Ms. Gillis, she said, is “never going to come home. She’s never going to see her sisters. She’s never going to be able to watch them grow up.”


In Hebron, a town of about 1,800 people about 60 miles northeast of Albany, several residents recalled Mr. Monahan as a dyspeptic and sometimes combative personality.


Mr. Matthews said that Mr. Monahan could be intimidating, striking a “righteous” attitude, and recalled an incident where a local church had put up floodlights over a basketball court thousands of feet from his home.


But, he said, Mr. Monahan — whose home has a porch and floor-to-ceiling windows with a commanding view of the valley, and the church, below — suspected something sinister.


“He felt that they had done it intentionally,” Mr. Matthews said. “This is the church, you know? It’s not like somebody set a spotlight up to highlight his house.”


Brian Campbell, the town supervisor, said in a blog post that the shooting had deeply affected his “very quiet and tranquil town.”


He added: “I can’t even fathom what would make a person shoot at a car that was in their driveway if they didn’t even know the people in the car.”


Ed Shanahan and Chelsia Rose Marcius contributed reporting. Kitty Bennett contributed research.



4) Canada’s Federal Workers Strike, Disrupting Government Services

The largest public sector union in Canada went on strike on Wednesday over wages and return to office rules, causing delays to border crossings and passport and income tax services.

By Ian Austen, April 19, 2023

Picketers stand outside the Prime Minster’s Office waving the flag of their labor union and bearing signs highlighting inflation.
Striking workers rally outside of the Prime Minister’s office in Ottawa on Wednesday. Credit...Blair Gable/Reuters

OTTAWA — Canadians faced a variety of delays and disruptions on Wednesday after the largest union representing federal government workers went on strike over a variety of contract issues, including wages and remote work.


The 155,000 members of the Public Service Alliance of Canada who were forming pickets at about 250 locations across Canada on Wednesday work largely in administrative, clerical and maintenance jobs.


Their absence was expected to create backlogs at border crossings with the United States, slow cargo entering Canada and cause delays in the issuing of visas and the handling unemployment insurance, as well as mire the processing of passport applications and pension payments.


The walkout was also expected to disrupt the processing of income tax returns due May 1 and hinder the issuing of refund checks.


The pandemic had already put many of those services under strain, particularly the issuing of passports.


“We are still a ways apart,” Chris Aylward, the union’s president told reporters on Tuesday evening. “But we’re staying at the table because we’re still hopeful and our goal is still to get to a tentative agreement.”


Some workers have complained that their wages have not kept up with an increase in prices.


The Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat, the government department conducting the talks, said “the government has done everything it can to reach a deal and avoid disrupting the services that Canadians rely on.”


The board, in a statement, added that the union “continues to insist on demands that are unaffordable and would severely impact the Government’s ability to deliver services to Canadians.”


The government is currently offering a cumulative wage increase of 9 percent which would be spread over three years. For most of its members, the union is looking for raises that would total 13.5 percent over the same period.


One of the most contentious issues in the talks is the future of remote work. Public servants had been working remotely since start of the pandemic in 2020, but starting March 31 they have been required to be in their offices or other workplaces two to three days a week.


The union wants all of its members to have the option of permanently working from home.


Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Wednesday declined to discuss specifics of the dispute, saying that he would not negotiate in public.


“We’ll see exactly what happens when we get back to the bargaining table,” he told reporters. “I know that Canadians will not be too patient if it goes on too long.”


Mr. Trudeau can order the union back to work through legislation, but may not have the support in Parliament to pass such a motion. The leader of one of the parties that Mr. Trudeau’s Liberal government usually allies with to pass laws has already rejected supporting any legislation to end the strike.


The walkout in Canada follows a wave of public sector labor unrest in Britain this year that was also fueled by inflation’s effects on wages and by general discontent over employment conditions.



4) While You’re Lighting Up on 4/20, I’m Serving Decades in Prison for Selling Weed

I was sentenced in 1998 to 40 years in prison for selling marijuana. Even as it is decriminalized, I remain behind bars.

By Edwin Rubis , TRUTHOUT, Published April 20, 2023



April 20, 2023, is the day for many consumers to celebrate cannabis. Some will seize it as an opportunity to get high and have fun. Activists will push for legalization in states where cannabis consumption is still illegal. Cannabis dispensaries will promote the industry and its products; and many notable musicians will perform at events, such as the Cannabis Cup, where they’ll pitch the sales up on behalf of the vendors who’ll be showing off their finest marijuana products to tens of thousands of event goers.


As for me, I will be sitting in a twelve-by-ten prison cell in the hills of Alabama, away from civilization, wishing I was free, and fantasizing of a world full of joy, laughter and love; and dreaming of a life I wish I had, in which the intimacy of my wife would give me comfort, in which my children’s unconditional love would bring me happiness. But those are just wishes, fantasies, dreams, thoughts and mental illusions to deceive my imprisoned soul.


Since 1998, when I was arrested by the Drug Enforcement Agency and Houston Police, and later convicted and sentenced to 40 years in prison for conspiracy to sell and distribute cannabis, I’ve tried to comprehend the gravity of my punishment for a nonviolent cannabis crime (essentially when no guns, money, or drugs were found on me), without finding a legitimate answer.


They say a man isn’t supposed to cry (even under these dire circumstances). I steadily believed it — from the moment I walked into the belly of the beast — randomly walking the prison corridors like a zombie, suppressing the painful feelings of regret, shame and guilt, until one day they decided to burst wide open, prompting me to attempt to take my own life. It didn’t happen, thank God. Eventually I learned to play the cards, learned to cheat life from a confined state of mind. I chose to survive, going against the voices telling me, “I just wanna die!”


The past twenty-four 4/20s spent behind bars have had their moments. Springs and summers have come and gone — like written songs that were never sung. Christmases dark and joyless. Birthdays awash with loneliness. Rigid penal mechanisms and iron-fisted rules gnawing away at my dignity and self-worth.


By God’s grace I’m still standing in a turbulent, volatile atmosphere where a simple act of disrespect in the form of moving someone’s chair in the TV room, or walking in front of someone watching television, without saying “excuse me,” can cause you to get stabbed with a homemade knife (I witnessed it once); in a place where the uprising of gang politics, depending on which group you belong to, either the Crips, the Bloods, the Sureños, the Aryan Brotherhood, Paisas, gangster disciples, vice lords, and on and on, can test your courage and tenacity to survive — even though I don’t belong to any of them; in an environment where viral illnesses plaguing prison cells and warehouse-looking dormitories, with incarcerated people packed like sardines, breathing the same recycled air and sharing the same laundered prison clothes and blankets on a weekly basis, can do you mental and physical harm. COVID-19 has already gripped me more than once.


The only subtle, refreshing feeling I look forward to each morning is the dawn’s light streaming through the barred window at the back of my prison cell as I open my eyes to endure another day in confinement. But even such refreshment rapidly fades into a discouraging feeling of melancholy, reminding me, “Edwin, you still have 10 more years left to serve.”


If I were to die today, it is painfully obvious no one would remember me except for my family. No one would pay me any mind. Not the politicians and judges who have the power to grant me reprieve. Not the cannabis dispensaries who vaguely represent those “left behind” (the cannabis prisoners who are still imprisoned for a product they are now profiting from). Not the musicians and celebrities pitching sales at cannabis events. Not even the Waldos or the Grateful Dead.


It reminds me of a biblical passage from Psalm 142 I once read: “I look for someone to come help me, but no one gives me a passing thought … no one cares a bit of what happens to me. … All I can do is pray, ‘Lord, … hear my cry for I’m very low. … Bring me out of prison so I can thank you … for you treat me kindly.'”


It also reminds me of a few poetic lines I once wrote:


I am walled in and chained up — without hope of escape


Branded with putrid savageness — numbered without a name


In my despair I remain silent — in my grief I remain broken


Comfort has eluded me — freedom taken wing


I imagine a life in retrospect — a life splayed with love


a life full of joy — a life full of purpose


A throe awakens me — my gullible mind has run its reel


My life only a credulous illusion — a fantasy a dream


A cesspool of opprobrium and rejection and failure


At this late stage of the game, my physical freedom seems farther than ever. As painful as it feels, I have to accept the fact that I’m just another number lost in the belly of the beast, an unredeemable monster in the eyes of my captors, too dangerous to set free. An invisible man, an unknown hero, who refused to give up names of others in the illegal cannabis trade; who bit the bullet for a product the United States celebrates today.


And even if there’s a faint ember of hope left out in the distance, for Families Against Mandatory Minimums, NORML [National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws], cannabis activists, prison reform organizations, and others to collectively find new, innovative ways to demand the release of those harmed by the “war on drugs” — and not through letters of request to the White House and Congress where they’ll meet the same fate of shredded disappointment in a bureaucratic maze as happened to my poor Mom and family back in 2016, near the conclusion of the Obama administration, when they mailed 1000 personal letters to 150 state representatives and 100 senators pleading their support for my clemency petition, only to receive three letters in reply, saying, “We can’t help. Find other ways.” — such hope would just get crushed under the premise that it has often been said, “the wheels of justice grind slowly” … but in this situation they seem to have turned glacial, frozen, unable to turn.


Edwin Rubis is a cannabis prisoner serving a 40-year sentence in federal prison for a nonviolent marijuana crime. His release date is 2033. Here’s how you can help Edwin:


You can also send him a personal text message of support to: (256) 695-0223.



5) This Could Be One of the Most Brazen Attacks on Americans’ Health Yet

By Jack Resneck Jr., April 20, 2023

Dr. Resneck is the president of the American Medical Association. 


A photo illustration of mifepristone pills reproduced in different sizes on a dark background.

Photo illustration by Aspen Mays for The New York Times

In their zeal to continue upending abortion access after the overturning of Roe v. Wade, legislators, activists and litigants have pushed increasingly extreme measures that disregard medical science, insert government into the exam room and increase the odds of maternal deaths. Not satisfied with banning abortion in their home states, some lawmakers are trying to restrict access in other states as well — a chilling attempt to intimidate patients and physicians alike.


Against this backdrop, the Supreme Court faces a decision that lays bare the threat to facts, evidence and the health of America’s patients. The case, Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine v. F.D.A. — in which anti-abortion organizations and doctors who have never prescribed the pill mifepristone argue, absurdly, that 23 years ago the F.D.A. did not follow proper protocol in approving it as part of a two-drug regimen for abortion — is one of the most brazen attacks yet against reproductive health. If the lower courts’ rulings on mifepristone are not reversed entirely, it could also upend the Food and Drug Administration’s drug regulatory process. This would throw our health care system into chaos in ways that extend far beyond the specific fight over mifepristone, a highly effective drug that has been used safely by millions of patients for medication abortions and for miscarriage care for more than two decades.


In seeking to restrict access to abortion across the United States, the plaintiffs in this case have, intentionally or not, seriously jeopardized our nation’s 85-year-old drug regulatory system. We must be cleareyed; upholding any parts of the district court’s dangerous ruling would in all likelihood almost immediately prompt challenges to other longstanding safe and effective F.D.A.-approved drugs that doctors and patients rely on every day.


After three years of politicization fueled by disinformation, this would surely include challenges to many vaccines, including those that reduce the risks of serious illness from Covid-19. We should expect lawsuits against common types of safe and highly effective hormonal birth control, including emergency contraception. Also at risk: drugs used to treat cancer and arthritis that can incidentally affect unexpected pregnancies, drugs to prevent or treat H.I.V., and medications aimed at providing gender-affirming care.


The threat may ultimately include promising drugs and treatments built around stem cell technology to treat Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, multiple sclerosis or even more common types of chronic disease, such as diabetes. With ever-growing anti-science aggression, disinformation campaigns and vitriol about all types of medical advancements, there is no telling where the court challenges may lead — perhaps even to widely used drugs now sold over the counter to treat pain, allergies or heartburn that happen to have been studied with fetal stem cells.


This would represent a dangerous and reckless step backward for our country. More people would live sicker, suffer more and die younger while the scientifically proven safe and effective drugs they need remain locked away.


We simply cannot be a country where your access to the care you need is determined by the whims of ideologically driven judges and lawmakers without medical or scientific training. That’s why a dozen of the nation’s leading medical organizations, including the one I head, the American Medical Association, strongly oppose this politically motivated assault on patient and physician autonomy and have filed amicus briefs to make our case.


We cannot allow pseudoscience and speculation to override the substantial weight of scientific evidence from more than 100 studies and millions of patients that confirm the safety and efficacy of a drug or course of treatment.


The legal challenge to mifepristone threatens grave harm to our patients, public health and the shared decision-making at the core of the physician-patient relationship. But there are even broader implications of this case: the integrity of the long-established F.D.A.-approval process and whether we want science — or ideologues — informing decisions about our individual and collective health.



6) The former Minnesota officer who fatally shot Daunte Wright will be freed Monday

By The Associated Press, April 22, 2023

The Former Minnesota Officer Who Fatally Shot Daunte Wright Will Be Freed Monday
This image provided by the Minnesota Department of Corrections shows Kim Potter. The former Brooklyn Center police officer is scheduled to be released from prison on Monday. (photo: Minnesota Department of Corrections/AP)

A white former police officer convicted of manslaughter after mistaking her handgun for a Taser and fatally shooting Black motorist Daunte Wright in suburban Minneapolis in 2021 is set to be released from prison Monday.


Minnesota Department of Corrections spokesman Andy Skoogman announced Friday that former officer Kim Potter was to be released after serving about 16 months of her two-year sentence. He said the exact timing of her departure Monday from Minnesota Correctional Facility-Shakopee won't be disclosed for security reasons.


"Our criminal investigative analysts are working closely with law enforcement to monitor the situation to ensure Kim Potter, like all incarcerated persons, is safe as she leaves our facility," Skoogman said in a statement.


The shooting happened April 2021 as Derek Chauvin was on trial in Minneapolis on murder charges in George Floyd's killing. Wright's death sparked several days of protests.


Judge Regina Chu had said at Potter's sentencing that she would be required to serve two-thirds of her sentence — 16 months — then spend the rest on probation.


Potter, now 50, appears much thinner in a new photo released by the Department of Corrections. Her attorney, Earl Gray, said he had "no idea" why her appearance changed.


"It just shows it's rough doing time," Gray said. "I don't know many mug shots that show somebody in a good light."


A message left with civil rights attorney Ben Crump, the lawyer for Wright's family, wasn't immediately returned.


Wright, a 20-year-old father, was killed on April 11, 2021, after Brooklyn Center officers pulled him over for having expired license tags and an air freshener hanging from his rearview mirror. Officers discovered he had a warrant for a misdemeanor weapons possession charge and he was shot during a struggle as officers tried to arrest him.


Civil rights advocates say laws against hanging objects from rearview mirrors have been used as a pretext for stopping Black motorists.


Potter is heard on video yelling "Taser" several times just before she fires her pistol as Wright tried to drive away from the traffic stop.


The state attorney general's office had sought a sentence recommended by state guidelines of just over seven years in prison. Wright's family and Crump denounced the two-year sentence as too lenient and accused the judge of giving more consideration to the white officer than the Black victim.


Wright's mother, Katie Wright, said after the sentencing that Potter "murdered my son," adding: "Today the justice system murdered him all over again."


Chu said at the time that the case wasn't the same as other high-profile killings, including George Floyd's death that resulted in a 22 1/2-year sentence for Chauvin. "This is a cop who made a tragic mistake," she said.


Defense attorneys argued at the sentencing hearing that Potter deserved leniency because Wright was trying to drive away and Potter had the right to defend herself.


Potter, a 26-year police veteran, apologized to Wright's family at sentencing and spoke directly to his mother: "Katie, I understand a mother's love. I'm sorry I broke your heart ... my heart is broken and devastated for all of you."



7) Why Dead Birds Are Falling From the Sky

By David Quammen, April 23, 2023

Mr. Quammen is a science writer and the author of “Breathless: The Scientific Race to Defeat a Deadly Virus.”

A photo illustration of birds flying in a V-shape. Three of the birds look ghost-like.
Nash Weerasekera

Experts are concerned that a new global disease outbreak, possibly worse than Covid-19, might begin any day. The virus that worries them is H5N1, a form of avian influenza, or bird flu. Some researchers have warned that with just a few mutations, or maybe a sudden swapping of gene segments, this deadly flu virus could gain the ability to spread from human to human.


But in fact, the next pandemic has already begun. To use a more accurate term, a panzootic — a widespread outbreak of disease among nonhuman animals — is underway.


To appreciate this catastrophe, we’ve got to move the focus off humans, at least for a bit. H5N1 is devastating the world’s birds. Eagles are dropping dead, as are great horned owls and peregrine falcons and pelicans. Twenty California condors recently died of what’s suspected to be avian flu — 10 are confirmed so far. It’s the worst thing that has happened to wild birds since the pesticide DDT.


Tallying deaths among wildlife in wild places, especially those flying through forests and over oceans, is hard. The Book of Matthew may assert that not one sparrow falls to earth without the knowledge and consent of God, but us mere humans can’t count how many raptors, waterfowl, shorebirds, ravens, parrots and other wild birds may be dying in places beyond notice. The results could be dire for some bird populations, even pushing endangered species closer to extinction. What happens when this killer virus gets into whooping cranes, of which fewer than 900 exist on the planet? What’s next for the California condor, with barely 300 birds alive in the wild?


Seabirds that nest in great colonies are a little more visible. Such dense nesting also makes them more vulnerable to contagious disease, and many kinds are long-lived, maturing at relatively late ages, which leaves their populations slower to rebound. During nesting season last May, at a colony of sandwich terns on the coast of France, observers counted more than 1,000 tern corpses. France as a whole may have lost 10 percent of its breeding population within a week. At remote island sites in Britain, such as Orkney and the Shetlands, the great skua seems to have suffered die-offs of up to 85 percent.


Any such bird flu, so deadly, is called highly pathogenic avian influenza, or H.P.A.I. That label was once applied to viruses that infect chickens. Until this century, these kinds of viruses were virtually unknown among wild birds. The exception was an event in 1961, when 1,300 common terns showed up dead along the coast of South Africa. The cause was a new avian virus of the general sort that — we now know — wild aquatic birds carry endemically and sometimes spill into domestic birds, pigs and humans. For decades after that tern die-off, though, no other influenza so virulent was detected in wild birds. New influenzas did come from wild birds, yes, but in milder form, usually sickening domestic birds little or not at all. Evolving to become more lethal was something that happened, so far as science could see, mainly among farmed poultry.


A Belgian epidemiologist, Marius Gilbert, led a 2018 study of this phenomenon. Dr. Gilbert and his colleagues reviewed 39 cases in which a mild avian influenza had evolved into a killer virus. All but two of those 39 known conversions occurred among commercial poultry.


Is it going too far, I recently asked Dr. Gilbert, to conclude that commercial poultry farms are what deliver the problem of virulent influenzas upon us humans, and also upon wild birds? “No. I don’t think it’s too far,” he said. “But we have to bring nuance to that statement.”


“Commercial poultry” can mean there’s a vast and dense aggregation of birds — thousands, or hundreds of thousands, in industrial-scale operations — or it can mean 10 chickens and six ducks in the backyard of a family in a rural village. The ducks share the rice paddy with wild birds passing through, and some of the chickens are sent live to a local market. Viruses flow in every direction, including to the children who tend the ducks.


The currently circulating H5N1 lineage of avian flu emerged back in 1996, among farmed geese in a rural area of Guangdong province in southern China. Its kill rate among those geese was 40 percent, with symptoms that included bleeding and neurological dysfunction. At some point it passed into wild birds, spreading across Asia to Europe and the Mideast, and occasionally into humans and other mammals, though without triggering long chains of transmission.


In December 2021, it was detected among wild birds in Newfoundland and Labrador, and from there it seems to have been carried by migrating waterfowl down the Atlantic Flyway to the Carolinas, Georgia and Florida. That’s where Nicole Nemeth, a wildlife pathologist at the University of Georgia, encountered it, when bald eagles started arriving dead at her laboratory.


Dr. Nemeth and her colleagues found a high rate of bald eagle nest failure (no surviving chicks) and adult deaths, with dead birds brought to the lab and confirmed to be ravaged by the H.P.A.I. virus. “It was very sad and alarming,” Dr. Nemeth told me.


Adult birds were losing muscle control, shaking their heads, showing signs of weakness or paralysis, keeling over, tumbling from their high nests. Bald eagles are big birds, weighing up to 14 pounds, so when they fall, they land hard. “As a pathologist, I was looking at these birds carefully, and they were clearly dying of a very severe, acute, viral infection,” Dr. Nemeth said. Some were probably dead by the time they hit the ground.


Necropsies revealed organ failure and brain inflammation, but also blunt trauma and bleeding from the long falls. And when the adults became sick and fell, the unfledged young usually died, too, either from the same infection or from orphanhood. In coastal Georgia, during the 2022 season, nesting success for bald eagles was down by 30 percent.


It could get worse. There’s very little, Dr. Nemeth told me, that either science or wildlife management can do. When the bald eagle population declined badly in the 1950s and then the species was declared endangered in 1967, the main cause of reproductive failure — DDT — was banned. The eagle population bounced back, a wondrous conservation success. But you can’t ban a virus like you can a chemical — not a virus that travels everywhere in wild birds and evolves continuously in domestic ones, which are raised in vast numbers on both industrial-scale farms and in backyards.


Our little world contains eight billion humans. It now also contains more than 33 billion chickens. This vast horde of domestic poultry is an important link in the chain of cause and effect that is killing wild birds all over the world. We should consider what can be done about that — if not by wildlife management, maybe by better managing ourselves.


We should think about how our access to cheap supermarket chicken, breasts and legs wrapped in plastic, kindles jeopardy for the hawks, falcons and owls of our forests, the ducks and loons of our wetlands, the vultures that clean away carrion, the crows that amuse us in town, the gulls and terns of our shorelines, the wild geese we enjoy hearing as they honk southward on an autumn night — and jeopardy also for ourselves. We should bear in mind that those 33 billion broilers and roasters represent a great petri dish for the continuing evolution of flu viruses. One such virus could well — just by chance — acquire mutations that make it the next human nightmare. The eagles would still be falling dead off their perches, a tragedy in itself. And the chickens, for us, would come home to roost.



8) After Front Door Shooting, Kansas City Grapples With Race

In a city that has seen a new wave of business investment, the shooting of Ralph Yarl, 16, drew new attention to persistent disparities between Black and white residents.

By Mitch Smith, April 23, 2023

A crowd stands with signs calling for “Justice” in the Ralph Yarl case.
Protesters attended a rally for Ralph Yarl, the 16-year-old who was shot when he mistakenly rang a doorbell at the wrong house in Kansas City, Mo. Credit...Chase Castor/Getty Images

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — From one vantage point, a post-pandemic boom seemed to be taking hold in Kansas City. It was the only Midwestern city selected to host World Cup soccer games. A sparkling airport terminal had just opened, replacing dingy old gates. And downtown, construction crews were at work on a giant stage outside Union Station, a remade train depot that will soon host thousands of visitors for the N.F.L. Draft.


But the shooting of a Black teenager named Ralph Yarl this month by an older white man on the city’s northern edge jolted residents and shifted the civic conversation. By the time prosecutors filed felony charges last week against the accused gunman, Andrew D. Lester, 84, Kansas City found itself uncomfortably in the national spotlight, and residents were asking how a teen could be shot for something as trivial as ringing the wrong doorbell, and why it took four days to bring charges.


For many, the case reopened big questions about racism and segregation that have been fused into the city’s history for generations but never fully reckoned with.


“We need to clean up our house so that we can be proud and not performative when we have company,” said Gwen Grant, the president and chief executive of the Urban League of Greater Kansas City. She said her city needed to “address the root causes of these problems, and address the systems, and not run away from the tough race and racism conversations.”


The shooting of Ralph, 16, who is recovering from his injuries after mistakenly going to the wrong house while trying to pick up his younger siblings, horrified Kansas Citians across racial lines.


“The man should have said, ‘Who is it?’ Or open the door and look if he didn’t know him,” Paul Long, a 68-year-old resident of Kansas City, said as he waited at a bus stop last week. “This kind of stuff happens to Black people for the wrong reasons,” said Mr. Long, who is Black. “It’s not the city. It’s the people. Some are good and some are not so good.”


As days have passed since the shooting, Mayor Quinton Lucas said, “You start to see a different racial reaction,” with Black people like himself feeling upset and wanting to talk about deeper issues that were highlighted by the shooting. Some white people, the mayor said, seemed ready to move on, content to chalk up the case as a tragic aberration and to point to the criminal charges as a sign of the system working.


“I think what they’re missing is just how much this impacts a lot of us who exist while Black,” said Mr. Lucas, a Democrat, who has been mayor of this city of 508,000 people since 2019.


“The immediate answer anybody wants to have is, ‘Yeah, we’re a great place,’” Mr. Lucas said. He added: “I think we’re a wonderful place. But I think we’ve got a hell of a lot of things that we should confront to be the best place we can be.”


In the earliest days of Kansas City’s history, Black people were brought to Missouri as enslaved people, and a pattern of entrenched segregation has shaped the city ever since. In the late 20th century, city leaders struggled to integrate the school system, leading to a legal fight that stretched for decades and extended to the Supreme Court. Even now, a major north-south street, Troost Avenue, is seen as a dividing line, with more Black people living to the east and more white people to the west, including downtown.


That lasting segregation, along with sprawling municipal boundaries that span more than 300 square miles, has created a Kansas City in which many Black and white residents live separate lives. A rush of investment over the past 20 years has brought more people and businesses to the once-struggling downtown. The Northland, the suburban-feeling area north of the Missouri River where Ralph was shot, which is known for being more white and more conservative than the city as a whole, has also continued to grow. But parts of the East Side continue to struggle with high crime rates and a feeling of being overlooked.


“If you live in a privileged part of town, a less privileged part of town may as well be across an ocean,” said Jason Kander, a former Missouri secretary of state who lives in Kansas City and who is white. He said his city “remains a place that is defined by the old-school red line,” and a failure to replicate the economic growth seen in largely white parts of town in mostly Black neighborhoods.


Old dividing lines have blurred some over the decades as Black families have moved west of Troost or north of the river, and the city’s record on race is complicated. Mr. Lucas is the third Black mayor of a city that remains majority white, and its first Black mayor, Emanuel Cleaver, now represents the area in Congress.


But in interviews across Kansas City, residents described a place where progress has been uneven. Michele L. Watley, who lives in Midtown, said racism in the city was sometimes overt, like the time someone called the police on her after wrongly suggesting that she was stealing from a store. But often, she said, the bias was more subtle.


“It’s almost like this veil of nicety and smiles that kind of overlays microaggressions and all kinds of crazy stuff,” said Ms. Watley, who is Black and the founder of Shirley’s Kitchen Cabinet, a nonprofit organization that seeks to empower Black women.


At a Kansas City community center, Deja Jones, who is white, said she had noticed that her fiancé, who is Black, regularly faced racism around town, including once when she was in the car with him and parked close to a building to drop something off.


“There was a white man who mean-mugged him and said, ‘You can’t park here,’” Ms. Jones said. “I came out and told the guy, ‘Hey, you don’t talk to him that way.’ You can just tell their attitude around him.”


Ralph, an accomplished high school student and musician, was out on an errand in his mostly white, middle-class neighborhood this month when he made an error anyone who has tried to navigate Kansas City’s street grid could relate to: He ended up on Northeast 115th Street instead of Northeast 115th Terrace, one block away, and went to the door of Mr. Lester instead of the house his siblings were visiting.


Ralph told investigators that he merely rang the home’s doorbell. He said Mr. Lester opened the door and began shooting, striking him once in the forehead and once in the arm. Mr. Lester, who has pleaded not guilty to assault in the first degree and armed criminal action, told investigators that he was “scared to death” to see Ralph at his door and believed he was in physical danger. He has asserted to the police that Ralph pulled on the door handle of an outside storm door; Ralph has told the authorities that he did not.


In the first day or two after the shooting, it received little notice in Kansas City, where gun violence is a daily reality and the homicide rate is consistently one of the country’s worst among large cities. It was not until April 15, two days after the shooting, that Mayor Lucas said he heard about the case after being tagged in the comments of an Instagram post by The Kansas City Defender, a local media outlet that grew out of the 2020 national protest movement and focuses on Black Kansas Citians.


By the following day, demonstrators were marching through the neighborhood where the shooting took place, outraged that Mr. Lester had initially been released without charges in what many saw as a clear-cut case of racial bias. When the Clay County prosecutor, Zachary Thompson, announced charges a day later, he said there was a “racial component” to the shooting but did not elaborate. Activists have called for a federal hate crime investigation.


The lack of public attention from local officials early on and the delay in bringing charges highlighted longstanding distrust between Black residents and law enforcement officials. Activists point to the 2019 police shooting of Cameron Lamb, a Black man killed by a white Kansas City detective while backing into his garage, as a reason for their suspicion of the police force. The detective who killed Mr. Lamb, Eric DeValkenaere, was convicted of involuntary manslaughter.


Many in Kansas City also disapprove of their Police Department’s unusual governance structure, in which the police answer to a board made up mostly of residents appointed by Missouri’s governor, rather than solely to the city’s mayor.


Stacey Graves, Kansas City’s police chief, said in an interview that she was working to improve trust with residents, and that new conversations had started within the Police Department since Ralph was shot.


“You have to recognize that, when you’re looking at the situation and those involved, that brings back a picture from a painful past,” said Chief Graves, who is white.


Fifty-six percent of Kansas City residents are white, 27 percent are Black, 11 percent are Hispanic and 3 percent are Asian. But police data shows that 75 percent of homicide victims this year have been Black. There have been more homicides so far in 2023 than during the same period in 2022, which local media outlets have described as the second-deadliest year in city history.


Chief Graves said she has worked to balance simultaneous forces: some residents who feel policed too aggressively and other residents who are hoping for a greater police presence.


As Ralph recovers from his injuries and Kansas City attempts to move forward, Eric Bunch, a member of the City Council who is white, said he saw a pressing need for more frank discussions of racism.


“I think we’re afraid of it, and we’re afraid to call it out for what it is,” said Mr. Bunch, whose district includes downtown. He added: “I think we all too often want to bury our heads in the sand and pretend that it doesn’t exist and that we’ll just figure it out by treating everyone nicely.”


Traci Angel and Julie Bosman contributed reporting.



9) Book Bans Rising Rapidly in the U.S., Free Speech Groups Find

A new report from PEN America, the free speech organization, details a new rise of censorship efforts across the United States.

By Alexandra Alter, April 20, 2023

A sepia-toned composition of photos of authors whose works have been restricted shows, clockwise from top left, Margaret Atwood, Ellen Hopkins, Toni Morrison, and Rupi Kaur.

Authors whose books have been restricted include, clockwise from top left: Margaret Atwood; Ellen Hopkins; Toni Morrison; Rupi Kaur. Credit...Clockwise from top left: Damon Winter/The New York Times; Chloe Aftel; Bernard Gotfryd, via Library of Congress; Evan Jenkins for The New York Times

Book bans are rising at a rapid pace in school districts around the United States, driven by new laws and regulations that limit what kinds of books children can access, according to a new report from PEN America, a free speech organization.


From July to December 2022, PEN found 1,477 cases of books being removed, up from 1,149 during the previous six months. Since the organization began tracking bans in July 2021, it has counted more than 4,000 instances of book removals using news reports, public records requests and publicly available data.


The numbers don’t reflect the full scope of the efforts, since new mandates in some states requiring schools to vet all their reading material for potentially offensive content have led to mass removals of books, which PEN was unable to track, the report says.


The statistic also fails to capture the rapid evolution of book restrictions into what many free speech organizations consider a worrisome new phase: Book bans are increasingly driven by organized efforts led by elected officials or activists groups whose actions can affect a whole district or state.


Of the nearly 1,500 book removals that PEN tracked in the last six months of 2022, the majority — nearly 75 percent — were driven by organized efforts or because of new legislation.


Seven states, including Florida, Tennessee, Oklahoma and Utah, passed laws last year that impose limits on material in libraries, according to analysis done by EveryLibrary, a political action committee for libraries. This year, the group is tracking 113 bills across the country that it says would negatively impact libraries or curtail people’s freedom to read.


“This is much bigger than you can really count,” said Jonathan Friedman, the director of free expression and education at PEN America. “People need to understand that it’s not a single book being removed in a single school district, it’s a set of ideas that are under threat just about everywhere.”


PEN’s analysis follows similar findings by the American Library Association, which recently released a report showing that efforts to ban books nearly doubled in 2022 over the previous year, and reached the highest number of complaints since the association began studying censorship efforts more than 20 years ago. The association found that book challenges are now increasingly being filed against multiple titles at once. In the past, libraries and schools typically received complaints about a single work.


“We’ve had two record-breaking years, and those of us who are fighting book bans really have our work cut out for us,” said Christopher Finan, the executive director of the National Coalition Against Censorship. “At this point, we’re fighting an uphill battle.”


Free speech advocates are troubled by not just the sharp rise in book bans, but also the new ways in which books are being targeted. Until fairly recently, most book removals occurred when a parent raised concerns about a title with a teacher or librarian. Complaints were typically resolved quietly, after a school board or committee evaluated the material and determined whether it was appropriate for students.


That began to change during the pandemic, with the rise of groups like Moms for Liberty and Utah Parents United, which formed to oppose Covid-19 restrictions, began to focus on the content of school curriculums and libraries. Members of these groups started showing up at school board meetings to demand that certain books be removed and circulating online lists of titles they found objectionable.


The rise of these networks meant that specific books — often titles that center on L.G.B.T.Q. themes or that address racial inequality — were being targeted all over the country. The debate around what constitutes appropriate reading material for students also became increasingly politicized and vitriolic. Librarians and teachers have been accused of promoting pedophilia, and some have lost their jobs or quit under pressure after refusing to remove books.


PEN and other free speech groups say that the new laws have had a chilling effect.


In Florida, where the State Legislature passed a law requiring that a certified media specialist evaluate all the books on school classroom and library shelves, some districts advised schools to limit access to all the titles until they could vetted, resulting in empty library shelves in some schools. Similarly, after Tennessee passed the “Age Appropriate Materials Act,” which required schools to catalog all the books in their classrooms and libraries to ensure there was no inappropriate content, some teachers chose to remove or cover up their entire classroom libraries rather than risk violating the law.


This week, Tennessee lawmakers went further and passed a bill that would subject book publishers and distributors to criminal prosecution and hefty fines for providing public schools with material that is deemed to be obscene. In a statement, PEN called on Gov. Bill Lee to reject the bill, arguing that it serves no purpose other than to intimidate publishers into self-censorship.


PEN’s analysis tracked bans in 21 states, affecting 66 school districts, but found that book removals were concentrated in a handful of states. Texas had the highest number, with 438 removals, followed by Florida, with 357, then Missouri, where 315 books were banned, and Utah and South Carolina, which each saw more than 100 titles removed.


Many of the same titles are being targeted around the country. Among the most banned books last year were “Gender Queer” by Maia Kobabe, “Flamer” by Mike Curato, “Tricks” by Ellen Hopkins, a graphic novel edition of “The Handmaid’s Tale” by Margaret Atwood and “Milk and Honey,” a poetry collection by Rupi Kaur.


“I do fear we’re losing sight of just how unusual this is,” Friedman said. “Book bans are becoming normalized in many places.”



10) The True Cost of a $12 T-Shirt

By E. Benjamin Skinner, April 24, 2023

Mr. Skinner is author of “A Crime So Monstrous: Face-to-Face with Modern-Day Slavery.”


A boy is seen looking intently behind a sewing machine in a Bangladesh textile factory.
An adolescent working in a textile factory in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Credit...Daniel Rodrigues for The New York Times

Fashion, it turns out, is the true opiate of the masses. Across the country, while inflation has siphoned middle-class wealth, American consumers have enjoyed a consolation prize: Apparel is dirt cheap. In 1993, you could buy a T-shirt for $13 — and get a midsize tank full of gas for about the same. Today, the full tank would cost more than three times as much. That T-shirt? $12.74.


We know the human cost of this benefit. One sweltering day in Bangladesh 10 years ago, workers at the Rana Plaza garment factory complex raised alarms about cracks in the building. They were threatened with loss of a month’s pay if they stayed home. The building collapsed the next day, killing 1,134 people and injuring over 2,500.


A subsequent, legally binding accord between trade unions and (still too few) brands improved building safety in Bangladesh. And yet, while that one problem was addressed, today even less attention is being paid to the welfare of the people who work across the industry. Over the last decade, the voices of the over 75 million vulnerable workers in the global garment and textile industry have been, like the products they made, steadily devalued.


It wasn’t always this way. From the Industrial Revolution until the end of the Cold War, the apparel industry was the world’s most important engine of human development. In mid-19th century Manchester, the textile trade fostered technological leaps that led to higher wages and lower prices for consumer goods.


By the turn of the century, Eastern European Jews and other immigrants built the Lower East Side’s garment district into not only a wealth generator, but the vanguard of a national workers’ rights movement. In the 1960s, the Korean apparel industry anchored the postwar recovery and then expanded to other Asian countries. Following Deng Xiaoping’s economic reforms, China’s apparel industry helped spark economic growth that  contributed to one of the largest exoduses of humanity from absolute poverty. Apparel has served as an escape from subsistence farm work for billions of people.


Today, that engine has stalled in first gear. The average garment worker earns barely half the pay they need to reach a decent standard of living. The monthly minimum wage for a Bangladeshi garment worker is equivalent to $75, meaning a worker can make less than $3 a day. Many are unable to afford staples like meat.


The easy scapegoat for the miserable working conditions many apparel workers labor in is fast fashion, a business model popularized by the likes of Zara founder Amancio Ortega (No. 14 on Forbes’s billionaires list) that chases hit runway trends with rapid production. But such companies — like Shein, with its staggeringly low prices and opaque supply chains — are symptoms, not the cause.


One aggravator is the current purchasing habits of millennials. The first modern American generation to hit their 30s in worse economic shape than their parents, millennials came of age during the Great Recession slammed by student debt. Inflation has pushed housing, energy, food — all the essentials of life — further beyond the grasp of many. As a result, many younger Americans  aren’t yet putting their wallets where their values are.


That downward pressure, combined with diminished labor power, means that the $1.5 trillion apparel industry has fallen to a place of widespread abuse that would not have looked out of place in the early years of industrialization. In 2022, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, enforcing a legislative mandate to prevent goods made with forced labor from entering U.S. markets, stopped $816.5 million worth of products — up from $55 million in 2020 — including garments. Transparentem, the nonprofit investigative group that I founded, has exposed numerous abuses in the supply chains of dozens of companies — including forced labor, child labor and highly polluted working environments.


Across Malaysia and other garment-producing countries we investigated, workers described being held hostage in the same trap: debt bondage after paying exorbitant recruitment fees to unscrupulous recruiters.  


The apparel industry suffers from what economists call an “agency problem.” Brands rely on auditors to uncover violations in factories — then often require the factories to pay for their own audits. Unsurprisingly, the typical audit is short, untrustworthy and, as Transparentem found at most audited factories we investigated, easily gamed. Suppliers, already operating on razor-thin margins, cannot afford to lose customers. Nor can the auditors, who often show little interest in scrutinizing their clients to the point of discomfort.


Younger consumers, who tend to be progressive and skeptical of received wisdom, offer the world’s best hope for change. They are concerned about moral consumption, seeing it as a question of self-identity. In 2015, 73 percent of global millennials said they would pay more for sustainable products. That figure may grow even larger as millennial incomes continue to rise. Millions of users of sites like Poshmark and Depop — websites that specialize in helping users buy and sell used clothing — are millennials and Gen Zers, many of whom are looking for a way to avoid primary fast fashion consumption entirely.


Many young consumers are also obsessed with truth, and they aren’t buying some brands’ superficial “greenwashing” or flimsy claims of ethical production. Nor should they. To date, precious few companies — Patagonia is a rare exception— even attempt to be sufficiently transparent about true working conditions in their supply chains. Although young consumers would pay more for sustainable products, brands lack the transparency needed to close the deal.


This presents an opportunity. We know young consumers are willing to pay more for clothing made by workers whose voices can be heard. And we all need to know that those workers are OK. A first, urgent step: Apparel companies should publish full, detailed social compliance audits, which purport to evaluate working conditions, at all upstream factories. Such disclosure would allow investors, other brands, consumers, activists, unions and, critically, the workers themselves, to audit the auditors and, progressively, be a part of more inclusive monitoring.


A second step: All apparel and footwear companies should sign the Commitment to Responsible Recruitment. Its signatories vow to ensure that no workers at their suppliers should pay a broker for their jobs (a setup that often leads to forced labor), and to ensure that all workers are allowed to hold on to their travel documents and to retain their freedom of movement. It also says that migrant workers should be informed, in their own languages, of the true terms of employment before they leave their home country.


True transparency may mean that companies need to invest more to listen, and respond, to the people who make their clothes. For consumers, that T-shirt might cost them more than $12.74. But for millions of workers whose freedom and safety are every day held hostage, the cost of laboring in darkness is already too high.



11) Self-Defense is a Human Right—Even Against Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine

By Bonnie Weinstein, May/June 2023


June 8, 1972: Kim Phúc, center, with other children, running down a road after a South Vietnam Air Force attacked them with napalm supplied by the U.S. (Wikipedia)

The U.S. antiwar movement, by and large, has coined Russia’s war on Ukraine a “war of self-defense of Russia against U.S./NATO forces.” Their rationale is that since the U.S. and NATO are supplying arms to Ukraine, the war is essentially a U.S./NATO war against Russia, they say that the “Nazi-infested” government of Ukraine is carrying out a proxy war against Russia and, therefore, is simply an extension of the U.S. war machine. It must be noted that fascism is on the rise throughout the world including in Russia, Europe, and the U.S. It’s the result of capitalism’s inevitable descent back into barbarism if a world socialist revolution doesn’t stop them.


The recent March 18, 2023, National March on Washington on the 20th anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq made no mention whatsoever of Russia’s relentless bombing and shooting of the people of Ukraine and the carefully targeted destruction of their infrastructure including apartment buildings, hospitals, schools, and playgrounds.


In fact, their demands were, “Peace in Ukraine—No weapons, no money for the Ukraine War! Abolish NATO! End U.S. militarism and sanctions! Fund people’s needs, not the war machine! No war with China! End U.S. aid to racist apartheid Israel! Fight racism and bigotry at home, not other peoples! U.S. hands off Haiti! End AFRICOM! End the Sanctions on Syria!”


Not one word about Putin’s brutal invasion bringing murder and mayhem to the people of Ukraine. In fact, many claim that Ukraine’s military is responsible for “accidentally bombing” their own people and blaming Russia unjustly.


They further lament that the reason the March 18 demonstration was small (all together around 2,500 people nationally compared to the massive Vietnam anti-war demonstrations in the ’60s and ’70s of hundreds-of-thousands,) is that those in the Vietnam anti-war movement did not believe in the mainstream media’s depiction of the war at the time. They claim that’s why the movement grew so large and powerful then—and why the current antiwar movement is so small—because Americans today believe the bourgeois press.


In fact, the exact opposite is true—the Vietnam anti-war movement became convinced by the bourgeois media that the war was wrong! They witnessed its brutality every day on TV and in the newspapers.


The argument that Russia’s war on Ukraine is a defensive war against the U.S. is irrational, illogical, superficial, and immoral! And that’s why the March 18th demonstrations were small! Very few people buy that argument!


Russia vs. U.S.

The war in Ukraine is not a revolutionary war—Russia against Ukraine—it’s a capitalist war. Capitalist Russia is also against capitalist U.S. for world hegemony. But capitalist Russia—a nuclear-armed world power—invaded Ukraine, a small capitalist country without nuclear weapons.


Russia is ruthlessly bombing and shooting the Ukrainian people in their homes and in the streets only to gain territory to be in bitter competition with the U.S.


The U.S. doesn’t give a damn about the people of Ukraine either. All they care about is maintaining and gaining world hegemony in business above all capitalist countries through war, and the constant threat of nuclear annihilation.


Ban and abolish U.S./NATO

If the U.S./NATO were banned and abolished, then that would mean that the world socialist revolution had been realized and had already overthrown them—that’s the only way the U.S./NATO can be “banned and abolished.”


Supporting the right of self-defense for Ukraine is NOT supporting U.S./NATO imperialism. And, again, Russia today is not the USSR—a worker’s state! It’s capitalist Russia in competition with the rest of the capitalist world.


We want to see a socialist revolution everywhere including Russia and Ukraine—and especially—in the U.S. But to carry out a socialist revolution in Ukraine, the people of Ukraine must be alive.


The Vietnam War and the antiwar movement

The incredible thing about the Vietnam War was the massive press coverage of the war and of the atrocities carried out by the U.S. in the war.


Every day more and more footage exposed exactly what the United States was doing to the people of Vietnam—little children running in the street on fire from napalm. Entire village populations massacred. The atrocities of the Vietnam War were viewed by the American people and the world daily. That’s what spurned the massive antiwar movement. That, and the draft—induction into the military—masses of young men being forced to fight.


And while many middle-class, white youth could opt out by going to college—masses of poor, working class white, Brown, and Black men were inducted, and were suffering huge casualties.


It wasn’t that they didn’t believe the mainstream capitalist media, it was because they did believe the bourgeois media, and were horrified about what was shown on TV and in the newspapers every day. That’s why the Vietnam anti-war movement exploded onto the streets in the millions across the world.


The U.S. learned from Vietnam and applied those lessons in Iraq, Afghanistan and everywhere else it has bombed and droned since. Photos are not released. There are secret prisons, secret torture, secret bombings.


And then, there is WikiLeaks, which exposes such atrocities, and is relentlessly being silenced by the U.S. and its allies, and its founder, Julian Assange, jailed and tortured as we speak!


The antiwar movement must be able to distinguish between invasion and war, and self-defense against it.


Ukraine has a right to defend itself against Russia’s invasion by any means it can!


Ending all war

The antiwar movement must be, first and foremost, against war as a way to solve human conflict.


War is the capitalists modus operandi needed to conquer the world. It’s how they roll.


The socialist revolution will finally put an end to war. It will put an end to borders. It will put an end to private ownership of the means of production and private profit. It will put an end to exploitation, racism, sexism, starvation, homelessness, the destruction of the environment—war being the ultimate form of destruction of the environment!


War is the antithesis of socialism and must be opposed. Self-defense is the modus operandi of the socialist revolution—self-defense of the world’s working class in unity and solidarity against capitalist war is how we will win socialism! It’s how we roll!



12) Our Way of Life Is Poisoning Us

By Mark O’Connell, April 20, 2023

Mr. O’Connell is the author, most recently, of “Notes From an Apocalypse: A Personal Journey to the End of the World and Back.”

An illustration showing what appears to be a transparent human head against a black background. The head contains a variety of items made of plastic, including Lego blocks, a toothbrush, a coat hanger, a water bottle and a traffic cone.
Jack Sachs

There is plastic in our bodies; it’s in our lungs and in our bowels and in the blood that pulses through us. We can’t see it, and we can’t feel it, but it is there. It is there in the water we drink and the food we eat, and even in the air that we breathe. We don’t know, yet, what it’s doing to us, because we have only quite recently become aware of its presence; but since we have learned of it, it has become a source of profound and multifarious cultural anxiety.


Maybe it’s nothing; maybe it’s fine. Maybe this jumble of fragments — bits of water bottles, tires, polystyrene packaging, microbeads from cosmetics — is washing through us and causing no particular harm. But even if that was true, there would still remain the psychological impact of the knowledge that there is plastic in our flesh. This knowledge registers, in some vague way, as apocalyptic; it has the feel of a backhanded divine vengeance, sly and poetically appropriate. Maybe this has been our fate all along, to achieve final communion with our own garbage.


The word we use, when we speak about this unsettling presence within us, is “microplastics.” It’s a broad category, accommodating any piece of plastic less than five millimeters, or about a fifth of an inch, in length. Much of this stuff, tiny though it is, is readily visible to the naked eye. You may have seen it in the photographs used to illustrate articles on the topic: a multitude of tiny, many-colored shards displayed on the tip of a finger, or a lurid little heap on a teaspoon. But there is also, more worryingly still, the stuff you can’t see: so-called nano-plastics, which are a tiny fraction of the size of microplastics. These are capable of crossing the membranes between cells and have been observed to accumulate in the brains of fish.


We have known for a while now that they are causing harm to fish. In a study published in 2018, fish exposed to microplastics were shown to have lower levels of growth and reproduction; their offspring, even when they were not themselves exposed, were observed as also having fewer young, suggesting that the contamination lingers through the generations. In 2020, another study, at James Cook University in Australia, demonstrated that microplastics alter the behavior of fish, with higher levels of exposure resulting in fish taking more risks and, as a consequence, dying younger.


Last month, The Journal of Hazardous Materials published a study examining the effects of plastic consumption on seabirds. The researchers put forward evidence of a new plastic-induced fibrotic disease they call plasticosis. Scarring on the intestinal tract caused by ingestion of plastics, they found, caused the birds to become more vulnerable to infection and parasites; it also damaged their capacity to digest food and to absorb certain vitamins.


It’s not, of course, the welfare of fish or seabirds that makes this information most worrying. If we — by which I mean human civilization — cared about fish and seabirds, we would not, in the first place, be dumping some 11 million metric tons of plastic into the oceans every year. What’s truly unsettling is the prospect that similar processes may turn out to be at work in our own bodies, that microplastics might be shortening our lives, and making us stupider and less fertile while they’re at it. As the authors of the report on plasticosis put it, their research “raises concerns for other species impacted by plastic ingestion” — a category that very much includes our own species.


Because just as fish must swim through the blizzard of trash we have made of the seas, we ourselves cannot avoid the stuff. One of the more unsettling elements of the whole microplastics situation — we can’t really call it a “crisis” at this point, because we just don’t know how bad it might be — is its strangely democratic pervasiveness. Unlike, say, the effects of climate change, no matter who you are, or where you live, you are exposed. You could live in a secure compound in the most remote of locations — safe from forest fires and rising sea levels — and you would be exposed to microplastics in a shower of rain. Scientists have found microplastics near the summit of Everest, and in the Mariana Trench, 36,000 feet below the surface of the Pacific.


In this context, most of the changes we make to try to protect ourselves from microplastic ingestion come to seem basically cosmetic. You can, for instance, stop giving your toddler water in a plastic cup, and it might make you feel like you’re doing something about her level of exposure, but only until you start thinking about all those PVC pipes the water had to pass through to get to her in the first place.


In a study conducted last year, in which researchers in Italy analyzed the breast milk of 34 healthy new mothers, microplastics were present in 75 percent of the samples. A particularly cruel irony, this, given the association of breast milk with purity and naturalness, and given new parents’ anxieties about heating formula in plastic bottles. This research itself came in the wake of the revelation, in 2020, that microplastics had been found in human placentas. It seems to have become something close to definitional: To be human is to contain plastic.


To consider this reality is to glimpse a broader truth that our civilization, our way of life, is poisoning us. There is a strange psychic logic at work here; in filling the oceans with the plastic detritus of our purchases, in carelessly disposing of the evidence of our own inexhaustible consumer desires, we have been engaging in something like a process of repression. And, as Freud insisted, the elements of experience that we repress — memories, impressions, fantasies — remain “virtually immortal; after the passage of decades they behave as though they had just occurred.” This psychic material, “unalterable by time,” was fated to return, and to work its poison on our lives.


Is this not what is going on with microplastics? The whole point of plastic, after all, is that it’s virtually immortal. From the moment it became a feature of mass-produced consumer products, between the First and Second World Wars, its success as a material has always been inextricable from the ease with which it can be created, and from its extreme durability. What’s most useful about it is precisely what makes it such a problem. And we keep making more of the stuff, year after year, decade after decade. Consider this fact: Of all the plastic created, since mass production began, more than half of it has been produced since 2000. We can throw it away, we can fool ourselves into thinking we’re “recycling” it, but it will not absent itself. It will show up again, in the food we eat and the water we drink. It will haunt the milk that infants suckle from their mothers’ breasts. Like a repressed memory, it remains, unalterable by time.


Writing in the 1950s, as mass-produced plastic was coming to define material culture in the West, the French philosopher Roland Barthes saw the advent of this “magical” stuff effecting a shift in our relationship to nature. “The hierarchy of substances,” he wrote, “is abolished: a single one replaces them all: the whole world can be plasticized, and even life itself since, we are told, they are beginning to make plastic aortas.”


To pay attention to our surroundings is to become aware of how right Barthes was. As I type these words, my fingertips are pressing down on the plastic keys of my laptop; the seat I’m sitting on is cushioned with some kind of faux-leather-effect polymer; even the gentle ambient music I’m listening to as I write is being pumped directly to my cochleas by way of plastic Bluetooth earphones. These things may not be a particularly serious immediate source of microplastics. But some time after they reach the end of their usefulness, you and I may wind up consuming them as tiny fragments in the water supply. In the ocean, polymers contained in paint are the largest source of these particles, while on land, dust from tires, and tiny plastic fibers from things like carpets and clothing, are among the main contributors.


In 2019, a study commissioned by the World Wide Fund for Nature found that the average person may be consuming as much as five grams of plastic every week — the equivalent, as the report’s authors put it, of an entire credit card. The wording was somewhat vague; if we may be consuming the equivalent of a credit card, we can assume that we may equally be consuming much less. But the report was widely circulated in the media, and its startling claims captured an anxious public imagination. The choice of the credit card as an image had some role to play here; the idea that we are eating our own purchasing power, that we might be poisoning ourselves with our insistent consumerism, burrows into the unconscious like a surrealist conceit. When I think of it, I can’t help picturing myself putting my Visa card in a blender and adding it to a smoothie.


David Cronenberg’s recent film “Crimes of the Future” opens with a startling scene of a small boy crouching in a bathroom and eating a plastic wastepaper basket like an Easter egg. The film’s premise, or part of it, is that certain humans have evolved the capacity to eat and take nutrition from plastic, and from other toxic substances. “It’s time for human evolution to sync with human technology,” as one such character puts it. “We’ve got to start feeding on our own industrial waste; it’s our destiny.”


As grotesque as the plot device is, it’s also a perversely optimistic one: Our best hope might be an evolutionary leap that allows us to live in the mess we’ve made. (Although arguably it’s only optimistic in the way that Jonathan Swift’s “A Modest Proposal” is optimistic.) In interviews around the time of the film’s release, Mr. Cronenberg revealed a preoccupation with the recent news about the presence of microplastics in human bloodstreams: “Maybe 80 percent of the human population has microplastics in their flesh,” he said in one interview. “So our bodies are different than human bodies have ever been before in history. This is not going away.”


As a parent, I am suspended between the desire to shield my children from microplastics — along with all the other things I want to shield them from — and the suspicion that the effort might be largely futile. A quick Google search revealed that these anxieties are increasingly common among parents and are the subject of a growing abundance of online content. In one article about protecting kids from microplastics, I read that the snuggling of soft toys in bed is to be avoided, and that such unexpectedly menacing beasts, rather than being left lying around the room or in the child’s bed, should be kept safely in a toy chest. (Later in the same article, the environmental scientist who makes this recommendation also counsels against instilling fear in our children.) As much as I would like to minimize ambient threats to my children’s health, I also don’t especially want to be the kind of parent who insists on their soft toys being stored safely in a chest when not in use — because of all the ambient threats to my children, the one I am most keen to offset is my own neurosis.


And although concern about microplastics is obviously compatible with the larger discourses of environmentalism and anti-consumerism, it’s not exclusively of interest to lefty, liberal types like myself. Joe Rogan, perhaps our culture’s foremost vector of meathead masculinity, has been talking about the topic for several years. In an episode of his podcast last year, Mr. Rogan expressed concern about an alarming effect of phthalates, a chemical used to increase the durability of plastics, in human bloodstreams: Babies, he said, were being born with smaller “taints.” (The taint, he clarified, was the distance between one’s penis and one’s anus.)


Not only were the taints of infants shrinking at an alarming rate; so, too, were penises and testicles themselves. “This is wild,” he said, “because it’s literally changing the hormonal profile and the reproductive systems of human beings, and making us weaker, making us less masculine.” A guest pointed out that there was something of a trade-off at play, in that while living in the modern world meant unprecedented exposure to such chemicals, it also meant living much longer. “Sort of,” said Mr. Rogan, “but you live like a bitch.” Just as climate change and pollution are the traditional concerns of the left, the demographic effects of falling birthrates are a source of anxiety to conservatives. Whatever your preferred apocalyptic scenario, in other words, microplastics have it covered.


Microplastics have established themselves in the cultural bloodstream, and their prevalence in the zeitgeist can partly be accounted for by our uncertainty as to what it means, from the point of view of pathology, that we are increasingly filled with plastic. This ambiguity allows us to ascribe all manner of malaises, both cultural and personal, to this new information about ourselves. The whole thing has a strangely allegorical resonance. We feel ourselves to be psychically disfigured, corrupted in our souls, by a steady diet of techno-capitalism’s figurative trash — by the abysmal scroll of inane TikToks and brainless takes, by Instagram influencers pointing at text boxes while doing little dances, by the endless proliferation of A.I.-generated junk content. We feel our faith in the very concept of the future liquefying at broadly the same rate as the polar ice caps. The idea of microscopic bits of trash crossing the blood-brain barrier feels like an apt and timely entry into the annals of the apocalyptic imaginary.


And the aura of scientific indeterminacy that surrounds the subject — maybe this stuff is causing unimaginable damage to our bodies and minds; then again, maybe it’s fine — lends it a slightly hysterical cast. We don’t know what these plastics are doing to us, and so there is no end to the maladies we might plausibly ascribe to them. Maybe it’s microplastics that are making you depressed. Maybe it’s because of microplastics that you have had a head cold constantly since Christmas. Maybe it’s microplastics that are stopping you and your partner from conceiving, or making you lazy and lethargic, or forgetful beyond your years. Maybe it’s microplastics that caused the cancer in your stomach, or your brain.


I myself am susceptible to this tendency. A few years back, I was diagnosed with I.B.D., a chronic autoimmune condition. As is typically the way of such ailments, it came out of nowhere, with no known cause. It’s not life-threatening, but there have been periods when it has made me ill enough to be unable to work for a week or two at a stretch, and when I have been so tired I could barely haul myself off the couch to go to bed at night. Every eight weeks, I present myself at a hospital infusion suite, where I am hooked up to a bag containing a liquid solution of a monoclonal antibody. (These bags are, of course, made from some kind of polyethylene, a fact that you must imagine me relating with an elaborate shrug, indicating great reserves of stoic irony.)


In 2021, a study published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology found significantly higher levels of microplastics in the stool samples of people who were diagnosed with I.B.D., but who were otherwise healthy, than those without I.B.D. No direct causation was established, but given that earlier studies conducted on laboratory animals established microplastic ingestion as a cause of intestinal inflammation, it seems not unreasonable to assume that there might be some link.


The more time I spent researching this essay, the more I found myself wondering whether microplastics might be at the root of my condition. My point here is not to make a factual claim either way, because I just don’t know enough to do so. My point, in fact, is precisely that the not knowing generates its own peculiar energy. I think it’s at least plausible that my illness might be caused by microplastics, but it’s also equally plausible that it might not. And I am aware that this ambiguity is itself strangely seductive, that it is on such epistemological wasteland that great, rickety edifices of conspiracy and conjecture are raised.


Until we know a good deal more than we currently do, at least, talking about microplastics can feel weirdly like holding forth on the harmful effects of cellphone radiation. (If you liked chemtrails, you’ll love microplastics!) The time will come, sooner or later, when we know what microplastics are doing to us, but until then the subject remains an ambiguous one, and therefore a richly suggestive one.


But isn’t there something obviously absurd in the claim that we don’t know whether we are being harmed by the plastic in our blood? What standards of harm are these, that we must await the test results before deciding how concerned to be about the thousands of little fragments of trash pulsing through our veins? Surely the fact of their presence is alarming enough in itself; and surely this presence, in any case, registers at least as strongly on a psychic as on a physiological level.


Among the most indelibly distressing images of the damage done to nature by our heedless, relentless consumption of plastic is a series of photographs by the artist Chris Jordan, entitled “Midway: Message From the Gyre.” Each of these photographs depicts the body of an albatross in some or other state of advanced decomposition. At the center of each splayed and desiccated carcass is the clustered miscellany of plastic objects the bird had consumed before dying. The horror of these images is in the surreal juxtaposition of organic and inorganic elements, the sheer bewildering volume of plastic contained in their digestive tracts. The bodies of these once beautiful creatures are returning slowly to the earth, but the human trash that sickened them remains inviolable, unalterable by time: toothpaste lids, bottle caps, entire cigarette lighters that look as if they would still work perfectly well, tiny little children’s dolls and a thousand other unidentifiable traces of our deranged productivity and heedless hunger.


The whole subject of microplastics is possessed of a nightmarish lucidity, because we understand it to be a symptom of a deeper disease. The unthinkable harm we have done to the planet — that is done to the planet on our behalf, as consumers — is being visited, in this surreal and lurid manner, on our own bodies. When we look at the decomposing bodies of those trash-filled birds, we know that we are looking not just at what we are doing to the world, but also at what our damaged world is doing to us.



13) Harry Belafonte, 96, Dies; Barrier-Breaking Singer, Actor and Activist

In the 1950s, when segregation was still widespread, his ascent to the upper echelon of show business was historic. But his primary focus was civil rights.

By Peter Keepnews, April 25, 2023

A close-up color photo of a young Mr. Belafonte singing into a suspended recording studio microphone, his eyes closed and his hands raised and gesturing. He wears a light-colored collared shirt, with cuff links, unbuttoned to his chest, over a white T-shirt.
Harry Belafonte stormed the pop charts and smashed racial barriers in the 1950s with his highly personal brand of folk music, and went on to become a major force in the civil rights movement. Above, the singer in 1957. Credit...Bob Henriques/Magnum Photos

Harry Belafonte, who stormed the pop charts and smashed racial barriers in the 1950s with his highly personal brand of folk music, and who went on to become a dynamic force in the civil rights movement, died on Tuesday at his home on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. He was 96.


The cause was congestive heart failure, said Ken Sunshine, his longtime spokesman.


At a time when segregation was still widespread and Black faces were still a rarity on screens large and small, Mr. Belafonte’s ascent to the upper echelon of show business was historic. He was not the first Black entertainer to transcend racial boundaries; Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald and others had achieved stardom before him. But none had made as much of a splash as he did, and for a few years no one in music, Black or white, was bigger.


Born in Harlem to West Indian immigrants, he almost single-handedly ignited a craze for Caribbean music with hit records like “Day-O (The Banana Boat Song)” and “Jamaica Farewell.” His album “Calypso,” which included both those songs, reached the top of the Billboard album chart shortly after its release in 1956 and stayed there for 31 weeks. Coming just before the breakthrough of Elvis Presley, it was said to be the first album by a single artist to sell more than a million copies.


Mr. Belafonte was equally successful as a concert attraction: Handsome and charismatic, he held audiences spellbound with dramatic interpretations of a repertoire that encompassed folk traditions from all over the world — rollicking calypsos like “Matilda,” work songs like “Lead Man Holler,” tender ballads like “Scarlet Ribbons.” By 1959 he was the most highly paid Black performer in history, with fat contracts for appearances in Las Vegas, at the Greek Theater in Los Angeles and at the Palace in New York.


Success as a singer led to movie offers, and Mr. Belafonte soon became the first Black actor to achieve major success in Hollywood as a leading man. His movie stardom was short-lived, though, and it was his friendly rival Sidney Poitier, not Mr. Belafonte, who became the first bona fide Black matinee idol.


But making movies was never Mr. Belafonte’s priority, and after a while neither was making music. He continued to perform into the 21st century, and to appear in movies as well (although he had two long hiatuses from the screen), but his primary focus from the late 1950s on was civil rights.


Early in his career, he befriended the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and became not just a lifelong friend but also an ardent supporter of Dr. King and the quest for racial equality he personified. He put up much of the seed money to help start the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and was one of the principal fund-raisers for that organization and Dr. King’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference.


He provided money to bail Dr. King and other civil rights activists out of jail. He took part in the March on Washington in 1963. His spacious apartment on West End Avenue in Manhattan became Dr. King’s home away from home. And he quietly maintained an insurance policy on Dr. King’s life, with the King family as the beneficiary, and donated his own money to make sure that the family was taken care of after Dr. King was assassinated in 1968.


(Nonetheless, in 2013 he sued Dr. King’s three surviving children in a dispute over documents that Mr. Belafonte said were his property and that the children said belonged to the King estate. The suit was settled the next year, with Mr. Belafonte retaining possession.)


In an interview with The Washington Post a few months after Dr. King’s death, Mr. Belafonte expressed ambivalence about his high profile in the civil rights movement. He would like to “be able to stop answering questions as though I were a spokesman for my people,” he said, adding, “I hate marching, and getting called at 3 a.m. to bail some cats out of jail.” But, he said, he accepted his role.


The Challenge of Racism


In the same interview, he noted ruefully that although he sang music with “roots in the Black culture of American Negroes, Africa and the West Indies,” most of his fans were white. As frustrating as that may have been, he was much more upset by the racism that he confronted even at the height of his fame.


His role in the 1957 movie “Island in the Sun,” which contained the suggestion of a romance between his character and a white woman played by Joan Fontaine, generated outrage in the South; a bill was even introduced in the South Carolina Legislature that would have fined any theater showing the film. In Atlanta for a benefit concert for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in 1962, Mr. Belafonte was twice refused service in the same restaurant. Television appearances with white female singers — Petula Clark in 1968, Julie Andrews in 1969 — angered many viewers and, in the case of Ms. Clark, threatened to cost him a sponsor.


He sometimes drew criticism from Black people, including the suggestion early in his career that he owed his success to the lightness of his skin (his paternal grandfather and maternal grandmother were white). When he divorced his wife in 1957 and married Julie Robinson, who had been the only white member of Katherine Dunham’s dance troupe, The Amsterdam News wrote, “Many Negroes are wondering why a man who has waved the flag of justice for his race should turn from a Negro wife to a white wife.”


When RCA Victor, his record company, promoted him as the “King of Calypso,” Mr. Belafonte was denounced as a pretender in Trinidad, the acknowledged birthplace of that highly rhythmic music, where an annual competition is held to choose a calypso king.


He himself never claimed to be a purist when it came to calypso or any of the other traditional styles he embraced, let alone the king of calypso. He and his songwriting collaborators loved folk music, he said, but saw nothing wrong with shaping it to their own ends.


“Purism is the best cover-up for mediocrity,” he told The New York Times in 1959. “If there is no change we might just as well go back to the first ‘ugh,’ which must have been the first song.”


Harold George Bellanfanti Jr. was born on March 1, 1927, in Harlem. His father, who was born in Martinique (and later changed the family name), worked occasionally as a chef on merchant ships and was often away; his mother, Melvine (Love) Bellanfanti, born in Jamaica, was a domestic.


In 1936, Harry, his mother and his younger brother, Dennis, moved to Jamaica. Unable to find work there, his mother soon returned to New York, leaving him and his brother to be looked after by relatives who, he later recalled, were either “unemployed or above the law.” They rejoined her in Harlem in 1940.


Awakening to Black History


Mr. Belafonte dropped out of George Washington High School in Upper Manhattan in 1944 and enlisted in the Navy, where he was assigned to load munitions aboard ships. Black shipmates introduced him to the works of W.E.B. Du Bois and other African American authors and urged him to study Black history.


He received further encouragement from Marguerite Byrd, the daughter of a middle-class Washington family, whom he met while he was stationed in Virginia and she was studying psychology at the Hampton Institute (now Hampton University). They married in 1948.


He and Ms. Byrd had two children, Adrienne Biesemeyer and Shari Belafonte, who survive him, as do his two children by Ms. Robinson, Gina Belafonte and David; and eight grandchildren. He and Ms. Robinson divorced in 2004, and he married Pamela Frank, a photographer, in 2008, and she survives him, too, along with a stepdaughter, Sarah Frank; a stepson, Lindsey Frank; and three step-grandchildren.


Back in New York after his discharge, Mr. Belafonte became interested in acting and enrolled under the G.I. Bill at Erwin Piscator’s Dramatic Workshop, where his classmates included Marlon Brando and Tony Curtis. He first took the stage at the American Negro Theater in Manhattan, where he worked as a stagehand and where he began his lifelong friendship with a fellow theatrical novice, Sidney Poitier.


Finding anything other than what he called “Uncle Tom” roles proved difficult, and even though singing was little more than a hobby, it was as a singer and not an actor that Mr. Belafonte found an audience.


Early in 1949, he was given the chance to perform during intermissions for two weeks at the Royal Roost, a popular Midtown jazz nightclub. He was an immediate hit, and the two weeks became five months.


Finding Folk Music


After enjoying some success but little creative satisfaction as a jazz-oriented pop singer, Mr. Belafonte looked elsewhere for inspiration. With the guitarist Millard Thomas, who would become his accompanist, and the playwright and novelist William Attaway, who would collaborate on many of his songs, he immersed himself in the study of folk music. (The calypso singer and songwriter Irving Burgie later supplied much of his repertoire, including “Day-O” and “Jamaica Farewell.”)


His manager, Jack Rollins, helped him develop an act that emphasized his acting ability and his striking good looks as much as a voice that was husky and expressive but, as Mr. Belafonte admitted, not very powerful.


A triumphant 1951 engagement at the Village Vanguard in Greenwich Village led to an even more successful one at the Blue Angel, the Vanguard’s upscale sister room on the Upper East Side. That in turn led to a recording contract with RCA and a role on Broadway in the 1953 revue “John Murray Anderson’s Almanac.”


Performing a repertoire that included the calypso standard “Hold ’em Joe” and his arrangement of the folk song “Mark Twain,” Mr. Belafonte won enthusiastic reviews, television bookings and a Tony Award for best featured actor in a musical. He also caught the eye of the Hollywood producer and director Otto Preminger, who cast him in the 1954 movie version of “Carmen Jones,” an all-Black update of Bizet’s opera “Carmen” with lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II, which had been a hit on Broadway a decade earlier.


Mr. Belafonte’s co-star was Dorothy Dandridge, with whom he had also appeared the year before in his first movie, the little-seen low-budget drama “Bright Road.” Although they were both accomplished vocalists, their singing voices in “Carmen Jones” were dubbed by opera singers.


Mr. Belafonte also made news for a movie he turned down, citing what he called its negative racial stereotypes: the 1959 screen version of “Porgy and Bess,” also a Preminger film. The role of Porgy was offered instead to his old friend Mr. Poitier, whom he criticized publicly for accepting it.


Stepping Away From Film


In the 1960s, as Mr. Poitier became a major box-office attraction, Mr. Belafonte made no movies at all: Hollywood, he said, was not interested in the socially conscious films he wanted to make, and he was not interested in the roles he was offered. He did, however, become a familiar presence — and an occasional source of controversy — on television.


His special “Tonight With Belafonte” won an Emmy in 1960 (a first for a Black performer), but a deal to do five more specials for that show’s sponsor, the cosmetics company Revlon, fell apart after one more was broadcast; according to Mr. Belafonte, Revlon asked him not to feature Black and white performers together. The taping of a 1968 special with Petula Clark was interrupted when Ms. Clark touched Mr. Belafonte’s arm, and a representative of the sponsor, Chrysler-Plymouth, demanded a retake. (The producer refused, and the sponsor’s representative later apologized, although Mr. Belafonte said the apology came “one hundred years too late.”)


When Mr. Belafonte returned to film as both producer and co-star, with Zero Mostel, of “The Angel Levine” (1970), based on a story by Bernard Malamud, the project had a sociopolitical edge: His Harry Belafonte Enterprises, with a grant from the Ford Foundation, hired 15 Black and Hispanic apprentices to learn filmmaking by working on the crew. One of them, Drake Walker, wrote the story for Mr. Belafonte’s next movie, “Buck and the Preacher” (1972), a gritty western that also starred Mr. Poitier.


But after appearing as a mob boss (a parody of Marlon Brando’s character in “The Godfather”) with Mr. Poitier and Bill Cosby in the hit 1974 comedy “Uptown Saturday Night” — directed, as “Buck and the Preacher” had been, by Mr. Poitier — Mr. Belafonte was once again absent from the big screen, this time until 1992, when he played himself in Robert Altman’s Hollywood satire “The Player.”


He appeared onscreen only sporadically after that, most notably as a gangster in Mr. Altman’s “Kansas City” (1996), for which Mr. Belafonte won a New York Film Critics Circle Award. His final film role was in Spike Lee’s “BlacKkKlansman” in 2018.


Political Activism


Mr. Belafonte continued to give concerts in the years when he was off the screen, but he concentrated on political activism and charitable work. In the 1980s, he helped organize a cultural boycott of South Africa as well as the Live Aid concert and the all-star recording “We Are the World,” both of which raised money to fight famine in Africa. In 1986, encouraged by some New York State Democratic Party leaders, he briefly considered running for the United States Senate. In 1987, he replaced Danny Kaye as UNICEF’s good-will ambassador.


Never shy about expressing his opinion, he became increasingly outspoken during the George W. Bush administration. In 2002, he accused Secretary of State Colin L. Powell of abandoning his principles to “come into the house of the master.” Four years later he called Mr. Bush “the greatest terrorist in the world.”


Mr. Belafonte was equally outspoken in the 2013 New York mayoral election, in which he campaigned for the Democratic candidate and eventual winner, Bill de Blasio. During the campaign he referred to the Koch brothers, the wealthy industrialists known for their support of conservative causes, as “white supremacists” and compared them to the Ku Klux Klan. (Mr. de Blasio quickly distanced himself from that comment.)


Such statements made Mr. Belafonte a frequent target of criticism, but no one disputed his artistry. Among the many honors he received in his later years were a Kennedy Center Honor in 1989, the National Medal of Arts in 1994 and a Grammy lifetime achievement award in 2000.


In 2011, he was the subject of a documentary film, “Sing Your Song,” and published his autobiography, “My Song.”


In 2014, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences gave him its Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award in recognition of his lifelong fight for civil rights and other causes. The honor, he told The Times, gave him “a strong sense of reward.”


He remained politically active to the end. On Election Day 2016, The Times published an opinion article by Mr. Belafonte urging people not to vote for Donald J. Trump, whom he called “feckless and immature.”


“Mr. Trump asks us what we have to lose,” he wrote, referring to African American voters, “and we must answer: Only the dream, only everything.”


Four years later, he returned to the opinion pages with a similar message: “We have learned exactly how much we had to lose — a lesson that has been inflicted upon Black people again and again in our history — and we will not be bought off by the empty promises of the flimflam man.”


Looking back on his life and career, Mr. Belafonte was proud but far from complacent. “About my own life, I have no complaints,” he wrote in his autobiography. “Yet the problems faced by most Americans of color seem as dire and entrenched as they were half a century ago.”


Richard Severo and Alex Traub contributed reporting.