Bay Area United Against War Newsletter, May 18, 2023

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.




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) Two Decades of Prison Did Not Prepare Me for the Horrors of County Jail

By Christopher Blackwell, May 16, 2023

Mr. Blackwell is an incarcerated writer.


A fence topped with rolls of spiked wire with a darkening sky above.

Uli Seit for The New York Times

When I was 22 years old, I committed robbery and murder. I pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 45 years, of which I have so far served two decades. During that time, I’ve experienced the squalor and dangerous conditions of various state prisons. I’ve lived in a crumbling penitentiary built in the 1800s. I’ve been put in isolation for weeks on end because of Covid exposure and infection. Still, I was not prepared for what I found when I was transferred to a county jail for two weeks last December.


Along with people serving short sentences for relatively minor offenses, jails house people who are awaiting trial and either didn’t get bail or simply couldn’t pay it — people, that is, who have not been convicted of any crime.


Despite that fact, conditions in these facilities are often worse, and sometimes much worse, than those in the prisons where people who are convicted of the worst crimes are confined. Jails throw people together in overcrowded units that may be controlled by the most violent people in the room. Like prisons, jails house a disproportionate number of people experiencing addiction or chronic health conditions but jails lack the resources to treat them and adequate staffing overall. Udi Ofer, a professor at Princeton University who focuses on policing and criminal justice reform, told me that jails “regularly rely on even harsher conditions of confinement” than prisons do.


As a prison writer, journalist and criminal justice activist, I try to communicate to anyone who will listen that the vast majority of incarcerated people will eventually return to their communities. The trauma they suffer on the inside comes with them. Just as a very short time in solitary confinement can cause lasting harm, weeks or months in county jail can have a huge negative impact on people’s lives, even after they are released. What happens in jails doesn’t stay in jails.


Ethan Frenchman, a lawyer in Washington who advocates on behalf of people with disabilities in jails, told me that while the nation’s roughly 1,500 state prisons are operated or overseen by 50 states, the 3,000 or so jails “are operated by who knows how many hundreds or thousands of different jurisdictions,” making it extremely hard to get reliable information about what goes on there, or to enforce any kind of accountability.


One data point is unmistakable: suicide rates. Suicides are the leading cause of death in jails, where they occur at a much higher rate than in prisons. Big city jails, like the complex on Rikers Island, are infamous for violence, neglect and overcrowding, but they are not outliers. In fact, research by the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics has found that suicide rates in the nation’s smallest jails were more than six times as high as those in the largest.


During my recent trip to Pierce County Jail in Tacoma, Wash., where I was sent to await a resentencing hearing that was ultimately delayed, I shared a cell with William Starkovich, a 35-year-old who had never been incarcerated before. He is awaiting trial in Pierce County Jail after an altercation with his siblings over rent money ended in two charges of assault in the first degree.


Mr. Starkovich, who gave me permission to tell his story, has received diagnoses of A.D.H.D., manic depressive disorder, bipolar disorder and autism spectrum disorder. Since his mental illness can affect his ability to maintain his physical hygiene, he is often a target of ridicule and aggression from other prisoners. He has been assaulted by other prisoners and guards alike. Mr. Starkovich told me that guards insisted on transferring him into an open dorm living unit where he didn’t feel safe. When he would not step into the unit, a “code blue” was called, meaning that a prisoner was defying an order. He was wrestled to the ground, tased and handcuffed.


Reports from jails across the country, from Rikers in New York to Santa Clara County’s Main Jail complex, in San Jose, Calif., have shown that mentally ill people are frequently mistreated. Families have filed lawsuits alleging that corrections officers have severely beaten mentally ill people, or let them starve or freeze to death. A 2014 internal investigation at Rikers found that almost 80 percent of the more than 100 prisoners who sustained serious injuries during altercations with corrections officers in 11 months were mentally ill.


Conditions in county jails are bad not just for people suffering from mental illnesses. Prisoners there are often given so little food that they are hungry all the time and must buy more in the commissary. My meals in prison consist of larger portions and far more fruits and vegetables than my meals in jail. To my surprise, I even found myself missing the flavors and variety of prison food. A prisoner in Maine summed up a typical meal in a county jail well when he asked a reporter to “consider eating ground-up gym mat with a little bit of seasoning.” But jail commissaries are so expensive that many people who can’t afford bail also can’t afford anything sold in them. In jail, I saw people beat each other up over commissary food.


Twenty-four packets of Top Ramen noodles that cost $6 on Amazon and just under $8 in my Washington State prison cost $26.40 in the Pierce County Jail’s commissary while I was incarcerated there. A small bag of freeze-dried coffee that costs $3.34 in state prison costs almost $13 in the county jail.


Phone calls to our loved ones, which cost just over a dollar for 20 minutes at a Washington State prison, cost nearly $4 from the county jail. An investigation by the Prison Policy Initiative found that in 20 states, phone calls from jails were at least three times as expensive as calls from state prisons. The calls I made from state prison and the county jail are managed by the same company, Securus Technologies, and I see no legitimate reason they should be three times as expensive at one facility.


And not only the day-to-day living conditions are hard. In state and federal prisons across the country, people have access to positive programming to help them better themselves, educate themselves and take responsibility for the crimes they’ve committed. I’ve worked for years in prison to earn an associate degree from Seattle Central College, and I am five classes shy of a bachelor’s degree in English and sociology. I have also co-founded a nonprofit, received training in restorative justice practices and worked as a restorative justice facilitator.


None of that changes the fact that I took another person’s life. I will live with profound regret about that for the rest of mine. However, one day I will return home. Thanks to the positive programs I have been able to participate in, the person who walks out of the prison gates will bear little resemblance to the person who entered them. Many people in prisons are trying to better themselves. For the most part, people in jail are just trying to survive.


We have to care about what’s happening in county jails if we are to make our communities safer. Eliminating cash bail, which puts people behind bars simply because they don’t have enough cash on hand, would drastically reduce the number of people in county jails. It would also make jails more humane environments for those who need to be detained for legitimate public safety concerns while they work their way through the court system. And research in states and cities across the country has found that eliminating or curtailing the use of cash bail does not have a negative effect on public safety.


Price restrictions that keep private companies from gouging prisoners and their loved ones could help those incarcerated in county jails get the food they need without resorting to violence. With positive changes, people confined in county jails could come out of their stays better equipped to thrive in their communities.


I may be in prison for decades to come, but Mr. Starkovich, like many men I met in county jail, could be released in the coming weeks. He will carry the memory of hunger, violence and fear with him.


Jamie Beth Cohen contributed reporting.



2) The Increasingly Absurd Illogic of Workplace Drug Tests

By Kevin F. Boehnke, May 18, 2023

Dr. Boehnke is a research assistant professor and the director of controversial compounds in the University of Michigan Medical School’s department of anesthesiology and Chronic Pain and Fatigue Research Center.

Melanie Lambrick

The email from my new job was not the welcome I was anticipating. I would “be required to complete a drug test within 72 hours,” it said. “Please be sure to check your email for instructions.” It was August 2018, and I had just accepted an offer as a faculty member to develop a research program on, of all things, cannabis’s therapeutic effects on chronic pain. But in addition to being a cannabis researcher I have fibromyalgia, and I had been using legal medical cannabis for nearly 10 years to help manage my symptoms.


Cannabis byproducts can be detected in urine for weeks, but I did what I could: I immediately stopped taking my medicine, exercised frequently, drank water constantly. My test kept getting delayed, which was lucky in one sense: By the time I took it, I was clear. But I had gone two months without my only useful pain medication.


And for what? All the test showed was that I had avoided cannabis and other drugs during the preceding weeks. I could have partied for the rest of the year, and no one would have been the wiser.


Perhaps you’ve experienced this pointless exercise yourself. A staggering number of people have. Despite the fact that 38 states have legalized medical cannabis, many employers continue to require their new hires to submit to a drug test.


Often these employers, including universities like mine, say the law leaves them no choice. The Drug-Free Workplace Act of 1988 and the Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act Amendment of 1989 do, indeed, require federal employees involved in certain professions, like law enforcement and national security, to be tested. That may be changing: Last month The New York Times reported that over the past five years, the military has given thousands of recruits a second chance to pass. In any case, these statutes do not mandate drug testing for people not employed by the federal government, even — despite many claims to the contrary — those who receive federal funding, such as academic researchers.


Cannabis can, of course, get you high, which affects attention, memory and learning. So just like most employees aren’t allowed to drink alcohol on the job, it makes sense that most employers don’t want people using cannabis while they’re working. The problem is that job-site drug screening captures usage only in the recent past. It does not assess current impairment or predict whether an employee may be a future safety risk.


Further, many other substances, including prescription medicines such as opioids, benzodiazepines and antidepressants, can also cause impairment. As long as you have a prescription, an employer can’t penalize you for taking benzos. Why should it be different for medical cannabis? As for those using it recreationally, unless they are showing up to work high or impaired, does it matter?


Even CBD products, which can’t get you high and aren’t controlled substances, may contain a compound that can trigger a positive urine drug screen.


Given President Biden’s recent call for the Food and Drug Administration to review whether cannabis should be a controlled substance in the first place, it’s beyond time to stop pre-employment drug testing for it. These policies are punitive for the nearly three million people who have medical cannabis licenses, as well as the millions more who simply use nonintoxicating CBD products. In addition to wasting substantial time and money and causing a great deal of unnecessary stress, such policies may worsen symptoms for people using these products medically — as I found out firsthand.


I publicly disclosed my medical cannabis use on two previous occasions: first in an article in a major medical journal in December 2018, and more recently in a large talk I gave in 2022. Neither disclosure resulted in a drug test. I doubt I will be tested when this article is published. (Stay tuned!) Such uneven enforcement makes me suspect that some employers don’t actually care; they are simply checking a box that doesn’t actually need to be checked. Since there’s no genuine safety or legal reason to keep doing this, isn’t it time we let new hires urinate in peace?



3) New Hampshire Honored a ‘Rebel Girl.’ Then It Found Out She Was a Communist.

A historical marker honoring the labor leader and feminist Elizabeth Gurley Flynn in her birthplace of Concord, N.H., was taken down after Republican lawmakers called the Communist activist “anti-American.”

By Remy Tumin, May 17, 2023

A marker consisting of a green placard with white lettering, and bearing the seal of the State of New Hampshire, honors Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, “The Rebel Girl,” making reference to her birthplace in Concord in 1890 and to her work as a nationally known labor leader. It’s pictured near a parking lot in the place where her childhood home is believed to have once stood.
A marker honoring Elizabeth Gurley Flynn in her birthplace of Concord, N.H., was removed after some lawmakers raised objections to her politics. Credit...Kathy Mccormack/Associated Press

From a young age, the activist Elizabeth Gurley Flynn was known to embrace an agenda that espoused workers’ and women’s rights. Ms. Flynn gave her first political speech in 1906, when she was 15, and went on to become a founder of the American Civil Liberties Union, an organizer at the Industrial Workers of the World union and, eventually, a leader of the Communist Party of the United States. Her bold actions earned her the nickname “Rebel Girl.”


Nearly 60 years after her death, her reputation continues to follow her.


Just two weeks after a roadside marker honoring her was installed by the state in her birthplace of Concord, N.H., the state removed the placard after Republican lawmakers raised staunch objections over Ms. Flynn’s communist ties.


As an organizer with the Industrial Workers of the World, Ms. Flynn participated in 1906 in strikes across the country, including the textile mills’ strike in Lawrence, Mass. Ms. Flynn also advocated that women receive the right to vote and helped found the American Civil Liberties Union in 1920 as Americans were interrogated for their communist beliefs.


Joe Hill, the labor organizer, wrote a song which was said to be inspired by Ms. Flynn, which he called “The Rebel Girl.”


In 1953, Ms. Flynn was convicted under the Smith Act of conspiring to teach and advocate the forcible overthrow of the United States government. She was sentenced to three years in prison. Ms. Flynn received a state funeral in Moscow when she died in 1964, and her obituary, describing her as the head of the American Communist Party, appeared on the front page of The New York Times.


“Elizabeth Gurley Flynn’s role in history is well established. Her significance as a historical figure is not in doubt,” Arnie Alpert, a community activist in New Hampshire who led the initiative for Ms. Flynn’s marker, said in an interview. “But what is not well known is that she was born in Concord.”


Mr. Alpert and his friend Mary Lee Sargent first petitioned the state Division of Historical Resources for a historical marker in 2021. The state ordered the plaque in March 2022, and it was approved by Concord’s City Council in December.


The marker was installed on the corner believed to have once been the site of Ms. Flynn’s childhood home, and a groundbreaking ceremony was held on May 1. Two days later, members of New Hampshire’s executive council, a state body of four Republicans and one Democrat, debated the issue of the monument. Joseph Kenney, a Republican council member, described it as “a slap in the face to the state of New Hampshire and the city of Concord.”


On May 15, it was removed.


Mr. Kenney said in an interview that he hoped removing the plaque would teach children a valuable lesson about the history of communism in the United States, and the time when it threatened “to take the world over and change our way of life.”


“My argument starts and rests there,” Mr. Kenney said, adding that he took the installation personally as a former Marine. “We can’t be recognizing someone like that in the state’s capital.”


The swift removal has pitted community organizers against state officials over the intricacies of bureaucratic policies and procedures in the “Live Free or Die” state. In a statement, a spokesman for Gov. Chris Sununu, a Republican, said the governor’s office learned that the marker was located on state property and not city property and “therefore, the marker was removed.”


“All policies and guidelines were followed in removing this controversial marker,” Benjamin Vihstadt, the spokesman, said. “Through their public statements, the City of Concord made clear they were not advocating to keep the marker up.”


Mr. Vihstadt did not elaborate on what that process to have it removed entailed or who ultimately gave the order to have the marker taken down. In a May 10 letter to the state, the city said it “takes no position” on the removal.


Mr. Alpert said proponents of the marker believed the state had “no grounds” to remove it, citing a state policy that requires proposals for revisions or the retirement of markers to be vetted by the state historical resources commission and for their sponsors to be notified.


For now, Mr. Alpert said the advocates’ legal recourse was “unclear.”


Denise Lynn, who studies women in the Communist Party and is the director of gender studies at the University of Southern Indiana, said Ms. Flynn’s role in American labor history deserves recognition.


“It comes down to the kind of history people are willing to acknowledge — the good, the bad, the messy,” Ms. Flynn said. “As a historian we need to acknowledge it all. We're not engaging with history if we’re not engaging with all parts, even if it make us uncomfortable.”


A spokesman for the state’s Department of Transportation said the marker was currently in a storage facility.



4) She Smoked Weed, Legally, Then Gave Birth. New York Took Her Baby.

The city’s child welfare agency is not supposed to remove children solely because of a parent’s marijuana use. A mother says the agency did so anyway, and now she is suing.

By Andy Newman, May 17, 2023

Chanetto Rivers leans against a tree and looks off to the side. Her black braids are looped in a bun on the top of her head and she wears a black leather jacket over a t-shirt.

Chanetto Rivers fought for custody of her baby after he was taken from her because she smoked marijuana shortly before giving birth. Credit...Hiroko Masuike/The New York Times

For Chanetto Rivers, the birth of her third child went relatively smoothly. About an hour after she arrived at the hospital in the Bronx, she was holding her newborn son.


But while she was pushing, in a maternity room crowded with doctors and nurses, someone asked a question: Had she consumed drugs or alcohol?


Ms. Rivers answered that she had smoked marijuana at a family barbecue hours earlier. She thought nothing of it — it was August 2021; marijuana had been legal in New York for months.


Without Ms. Rivers’s consent, she said, she and her baby were tested for drugs. Both were positive for marijuana. Two days later, the city’s child welfare agency, the Administration for Children’s Services, ordered the hospital not to release the baby to Ms. Rivers, her lawyers said.


Two days after that, A.C.S. told Ms. Rivers it was opening a neglect case and moving to place her baby in foster care.


New York’s legalization law bars removing a child for a parent’s marijuana use alone. A.C.S.’s policy states that marijuana in an infant’s system is not grounds for removal without a finding that the baby might be impaired, and A.C.S. never said that the baby, identified in court papers as T.W., was harmed by the marijuana exposure, Ms. Rivers’s lawyers said.


But it took nearly a week altogether, multiple trips to court and a judge’s order before she gained custody of her son.


Even then, she was not free of A.C.S. For three more months, her lawyers said, the agency required her to attend classes in parenting and anger management and to take drug tests. Caseworkers came to her apartment unannounced at random hours, including in the middle of the night.


On Wednesday, Ms. Rivers’s lawyers, the Bronx Defenders, sued A.C.S. on her behalf in federal court in Manhattan. The suit says the agency went after Ms. Rivers so aggressively “not because A.C.S. was trying to protect T.W.” but “because Ms. Rivers is Black.”


The lawsuit argues that Ms. Rivers’s treatment fits a decades-long pattern of discrimination against Black families by A.C.S., some of it documented in a 2020 audit in which the agency’s own employees said that A.C.S. was racist.


The lawsuit also noted that one of the main purposes of the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act of 2021 was to undo generations of harm caused by drug laws that were disproportionately wielded against Black and Hispanic people.


Ms. Rivers’s lead lawyer, Niji Jain, said the agency’s removal of T.W. “was the wrong decision on the law, it was the wrong decision on the facts, and then there’s the historical context.”


She was referring, in part, to the largely discredited “crack baby” hysteria of the 1980s and ’90s, in which researchers and media reports falsely described a vast epidemic of children damaged by their mothers’ cocaine use.


The case comes as marijuana’s legalization in New York has created uncertainty for authorities about how to treat its use. The state now bars employers from discriminating against workers who use marijuana legally; there are exceptions for employees who are impaired by marijuana while working, though there is no clearly drawn definition of impairment.


Ms. Rivers had a prior child welfare case; she lost custody of her two older children in 2016 for drug and alcohol use and for failing to obtain medical care for her older son.


But her lawyers said that her history was irrelevant. They said that A.C.S. had already cleared her to regain custody of her older children (though they had not yet moved back in with her at the time of T.W.’s birth because of court delays), and that both judges who presided over the T.W. case had said Ms. Rivers’s earlier case did not create an imminent risk to the baby.


A.C.S. also said that the hospital said Ms. Rivers had smoked marijuana in her room, an accusation she denied, according to the suit.


A.C.S. said it was barred from commenting on individual cases by state confidentiality laws but stated that it does not remove children based solely on a parent’s use of marijuana.


“When A.C.S. investigates a case involving an allegation of parental drug/alcohol misuse (regardless of what the substance is), A.C.S.’s policy and practice mandated under law is to assess the impact any misuse has or may imminently have on child safety,” an agency spokeswoman, Stephanie Gendell, said in a statement.


While there have been other instances since legalization where A.C.S. cited a parent’s marijuana use as a reason to remove a child, Bronx Defenders said Ms. Rivers’s case was the first they knew of where it was the only reason. According to the suit, T.W. did not receive any treatment at the hospital related to the marijuana exposure.


The lawsuit, which Bronx Defenders co-filed with the firm Arnold & Porter, also charges A.C.S. with violating Ms. Rivers’s constitutional right to due process. The two parties filed a companion suit on Wednesday charging that A.C.S. had illegally withheld documents connected to the racial equity audit.


Research has shown that Black expectant mothers are tested disproportionately for drugs. A study published last month in the journal JAMA Health Forum of nearly 40,000 births in Pennsylvania hospitals from 2018 to 2021 found that Black mothers were more likely to be drug-tested than white mothers, even though white mothers were more likely to test positive. Ms. Rivers’s hospital, BronxCare Health System, did not immediately respond to questions on Wednesday about whether it had tested Ms. Rivers and her son without her consent.


Research also suggests that the first days of a baby’s life are a critical bonding time. While T.W. was in the hospital, Ms. Rivers, 34, was allowed to visit him every day, but only briefly, she said.


When T.W. was brought to her, “it was like I was being watched and calculated and observed,” she said.


“Every time I went there, I would try to feed him and they’d be like, ‘Oh, we already fed him,’ or ‘we already changed his Pamper’ — they did everything that nurtured my own baby,” she said.


Dr. Mishka Terplan, an author of the Pennsylvania study, said in an email that measurable effects of prenatal cannabis use on child development “are rare, subtle, and of uncertain clinical significance.”


Dr. Terplan added that in cases like Ms. Rivers’s, “separation of a child from its care giver is likely significantly worse for its development than the cannabis exposure.”


Ms. Rivers’s case came before two family court judges. The first said he found it “troubling that A.C.S. runs to court” to seek removal based purely on marijuana use, the suit states.


The second ordered A.C.S. to return Ms. Rivers’s baby, over the agency’s objections. The judge noted that while she believed testimony that Ms. Rivers had smoked marijuana in the hospital, “that still does not rise to the level of imminent risk,” according to the suit.


The T.W. case ended up further delaying Ms. Rivers’s efforts to regain custody of her older children, the suit states. She won custody of them only after A.C.S. dropped the T.W. case, 107 days after he was born.



5) Jordan Neely Will Be Mourned at Funeral in Harlem

The Rev. Al Sharpton will eulogize Mr. Neely, who was choked to death earlier this month on the subway, in a case that has led to protests throughout New York City.

By Maria Cramer, May 19, 2023

Jordan Neely, dressed as Michael Jackson, poses in Times Square at night.
Mr. Neely was known to New Yorkers and tourists as a Michael Jackson impersonator. Credit...Andrew Savulich/New York Daily News/Tribune News Service, via Getty Images

Jordan Neely spent the last few weeks of his life riding the subways of New York, hungry, desperate and alone.


At his funeral on Friday, which will be held at 11 a.m. at Mount Neboh Baptist Church in Harlem, friends and family members will gather to mourn him. The Rev. Al Sharpton will deliver the eulogy.


The May 1 killing of Mr. Neely, who the police said had been acting in a “hostile and erratic manner” on an F train before another subway rider placed him in a chokehold for several minutes, quickly divided political leaders and led to protests around the city.


It has sparked debate around the country between those who believe the man who killed Mr. Neely, Daniel Penny, responded with violent vigilantism to a person who needed help, and those who believe he acted because he was trying to stop a threat. And it has raised questions about safety on the subway and the care provided to homeless and mentally ill people living in the city.


Mr. Penny has been charged with second-degree manslaughter. His lawyers have said he was trying to protect himself and others who were on the train when Mr. Neely boarded it and began yelling at passengers. An online fund-raiser for his legal defense amassed more than $2.6 million in donations after it was promoted by conservative politicians.


The chokehold was captured in a four-minute video, but many questions still remain about what took place before the video began. Witnesses told the police that Mr. Neely had shouted that he was hungry, thirsty and “ready to die.” There has been no indication that he physically attacked anyone.


In his teens and early 20s, Mr. Neely was a fixture in Times Square and on the subway, where he impersonated Michael Jackson, donning a red and black leather jacket and pants reminiscent of the singer’s Thriller era.


Friends recalled him as a talented dancer who adored performing in front of subway riders and mystified tourists.


But in recent years, his family said, he was struggling with mental illness and addiction, problems that were set off by the murder of his mother, Christie Neely, when he was 14.


He was living with his mother and her boyfriend in an apartment in Bayonne, N.J., when she disappeared in 2007. Her body was later found stuffed in a suitcase in the Bronx. She had been strangled; her boyfriend was charged with murder and Mr. Neely was called to testify during his trial.


He dropped out of Washington Irving High School in Manhattan. He remained close to his aunt, Carolyn Neely, who urged him to move to upstate New York with her when she left the city earlier this year.


He refused, according to lawyers for his family.


Mr. Neely became well known to the social work teams that reach out to homeless people on the subways, according to an employee of the Bowery Residents’ Committee, a nonprofit organization that does such outreach.


He was arrested dozens of times, mostly for transgressions like turnstile-jumping or trespassing. But at least four arrests were on charges of punching people, including in the subway system.


Mr. Neely was placed on what outreach workers refer to as the “Top 50” list — a roster maintained by the city of homeless people whom officials consider most urgently in need of assistance and treatment.


His funeral on Friday will be led by the Rev. Dr. Johnnie Green, who presided over the funeral of Mr. Neely’s mother in 2007.



6) Office Workers Don’t Hate the Office. They Hate the Commute.

By Farhad Manjoo, May 19, 2023


A photo of a crowded subway platform at Grand Central Station.

Timothy Mulcare for The New York Times

Elon Musk says we should all get off our duffs and go back to the office. People who want to work from home aren’t just “phoning it in” from “some remote pseudo-office” as he’s put it in the past. Now he says we’re immoral, too.


“The whole notion of work from home is a bit like the fake Marie Antoinette quote, ‘Let them eat cake,’” Musk told CNBC this week. Factory workers, service workers and construction workers can’t work from home, so why do people in the “laptop classes” think they should be able to do so? “It’s not just a productivity thing,” he said. “I think it’s morally wrong.”


A cynic might note that factory workers can’t work from private jets, either, yet Musk’s commitment to worker equity didn’t prevent his plane from making a reported 171 trips last year. A cynic might also point out that a man who makes cars for a living has a stake in the perpetuation of Americans driving to and from work day after day.


But I’m not so cynical. Musk isn’t alone among corporate executives in seeing employees’ reluctance to return to the office as a genuine economic problem. Mark Zuckerberg of Meta, Bob Iger of Disney, Andy Jassy of Amazon, Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan Chase and others have been pleading with or arm-twisting workers to come back. Companies have tried carrots — redesigning offices — and they’ve tried sticks, like reversing remote work policies at the same time they announce huge layoffs. But in a tight labor market, the office has been a tough sell. The average office occupancy rate across 10 major cities has plateaued at around 50 percent, The Wall Street Journal reported this week, citing data from Kastle Systems. Remote work looks like it’s turning from a pandemic necessity into a permanent feature of the American workplace.


Is this a big problem? For some local economies, it could be shattering, but I’ll get to that in a bit. First let’s address why folks aren’t coming back — and why they probably won’t unless we fix a big problem with office work that few C.E.O.s seem to mention: getting to and getting home from the office. Survey after survey bears this out. If we want people to go to the office more often, we have to do something about a ritual of American life that’s time-consuming, emotionally taxing, environmentally toxic and expensive: the daily commute.


In 2019, the average one-way commute in the United States hit a record of almost 28 minutes, according to the Census Bureau. Nearly 40 percent of Americans commuted a half-hour or more, one way, and almost 10 percent traveled for more than an hour one way.


For many, the pandemic-era shift to remote work proved that all the schlepping was unnecessary. They can’t unsee all the wasted time, and questioning their morality isn’t going to change that. They aren’t taking a moral stance, they’re just making a rational calculation: They can get a lot more done — in their work lives and in the rest of their lives — if they skip the commute.


Liberty Street Economics, a blog that features writing from New York Fed analysts, reported last year that collectively, Americans now spend 60 million fewer hours per day traveling to work. That’s 60 million hours for which they weren’t being compensated that they can now spend exercising, taking care of their children, getting a bit more sleep and starting their work day earlier or ending it later.


Workers are delighted by the switch. According to a survey by the Conference Board, overall job satisfaction in 2022 was at just over 62 percent, a high not seen in decades, and people with hybrid jobs that allowed them to work at home and at a job site were the happiest. A working paper published last year by the National Bureau of Economic Research even found that the rise of remote work “lessens wage-growth pressures and (modestly) eases the challenge facing monetary policymakers in their efforts to bring inflation down without stalling the economy.”


What about workers’ productivity? Has working from home led to a lot of slacking off? Not obviously. Another N.B.E.R. working paper published last year found that among workers at a large tech company, hybrid work arrangements did not significantly affect workers’ productivity even though people worked slightly less on days they were at home and slightly more on days they were in the office. Hybrid work improved job satisfaction measures and reduced attrition by 33 percent, especially among those with the longest commutes.


So what’s the downside to remote work? It might be hurting cities. Many of America’s largest and most prosperous urban areas rely on the rhythms of the daily commute — the perpetual need for morning caffeine, sad desk salads at lunch and beer gardens at happy hour buoy downtown and office-park economies.


The shift to remote work abruptly disrupted this pattern — setting off what has been called an “apocalypse” in the market for office real estate and, for some cities, a “death spiral” for public transportation systems, things that can contribute to a cycle that further damages economies. (I embrace the soft pants revolution as much as the next person, but imagine running a downtown mom-and-pop dry cleaners over the past three years.)


But if potential urban ruination is the danger, it isn’t a problem for C.E.O.s to solve — at least not by grumbling about their lazy workers. Rather, it’s a problem of infrastructure and policy; it’s a problem for local, state and national governments to address through long-range planning and a more realistic approach to urban development.


Like what? In theory, we know how to do this. If people are sick of commuting to work, we could aim to make commuting much less of a hassle. The ways to do that would likely involve some combination of reducing the distance between people’s homes and offices, improving the modes of transportation along these routes and reducing the other costs of coming in to work, like providing more accessible and affordable child care.


If it sounds like I’m using the shift to remote work as an opportunity to advocate lefty urbanist pipe dreams — better public transit! fewer cars and more bikes! denser development! an improved social safety net! — you’re right, I am.


But what are the alternatives? Digging tunnels for underground freeways or a “hyperloop”? Self-driving taxis that ferry us around so that we can work while we commute? Converting conference rooms to dank sleeping pods so that people can just live at the office all the time?


These are some of Elon Musk’s ideas for the future of work and life. Do they seem more realistic — or more desirable — than simply building more livable cities and better ways for people to get to work? Or is all this another way of saying, “Let them take robotaxis”?



7) This P.T.A. Mom Is Suing Her School District for Banning Books

By Michelle Goldberg, May 19, 2023


Lindsay Durtschi sits in a school library holding the picture book “And Tango Makes Three.”

Lindsay Durtschi is part of a lawsuit against the Escambia County School District and school board for removing and restricting books. Credit...Damon Winter/The New York Times

Lindsay Durtschi, a member of the P.T.A. in bright-red Escambia County, Fla., knows that coming out as a public face in the fight against book banning could make her life difficult, but she’s made peace with it. “I don’t want my business to suffer,” the optometrist and mother of elementary school-age girls told me. “I don’t want my kids to be bullied.” She worries her family could be threatened. “But if that’s what ends up happening, then I’ll tell everybody about it. I’m not one to keep my mouth shut.”


Durtschi is part of a groundbreaking lawsuit, filed on Wednesday, against the Escambia County School District and Escambia County School Board for their sweeping school library censorship. In addition to Durtschi and another Escambia County parent, the plaintiffs include the free expression organization PEN America, Penguin Random House and a group of authors of children’s and young adult books. The suit seeks to have Escambia’s book restrictions declared unconstitutional for targeting specific viewpoints and for infringing on the rights of students to receive information. Given the frenzy of book bans we’re now seeing nationwide — The Washington Post reported that in several states, librarians can be sent to prison for giving kids the wrong books — the outcome will have national implications.


The local school board’s actions, said Suzanne Nossel, the head of PEN America, are “an emblematic and egregious example of the pattern that we’ve been documenting across the country as far as an escalation in book removals and targeting of specific narratives involving people of color and L.G.B.T.Q. authors and stories.”


What I find most fascinating about the lawsuit, though, is the glimpse it offers into how national and state-level political dynamics empower the most fanatical members of a community to impose their will on everyone else.


Much of the impetus for book restrictions in Escambia came from one person — a high school English teacher named Vicki Baggett. Last May, Baggett went after “The Perks of Being a Wallflower,” a young adult coming-of-age novel published in 1999, which high school students could choose to read for a class assignment. She cited, among other things, the book’s “extreme sexual content descriptions.” But a school panel voted 4 to 3 to retain the book, so Baggett appealed to an assistant superintendent. The assistant superintendent convened another committee, which Durtschi was on. That committee also voted to let students opt to read the book, so Baggett went to the school board. (Baggett did not respond to an email seeking comment. A spokesperson for the district earlier told The New York Times that it can’t comment on pending litigation.)


Meanwhile, Baggett expanded her crusade, preparing a list of 116 books she wanted removed from school libraries, including “Slaughterhouse-Five” by Kurt Vonnegut, “The House of Spirits” by Isabel Allende, and, in elementary schools, “Draw Me a Star” by Eric Carle, author of “The Very Hungry Caterpillar,” because it has a picture of a naked man and woman. “When Wilma Rudolph Played Basketball,” a book about how the famous Black sprinter overcame polio to win gold at the Olympics, made the list for its descriptions of the racism Rudolph faced as a child in segregated Tennessee. Baggett, who told the journalist Judd Legum that she’s a member of the neo-Confederate group Daughters of the Confederacy, accused the book of “race-baiting.”


According to the lawsuit, Baggett found an ally in then-school board chair Kevin Adams. Adams told a local news site that he’d asked the superintendent to “quarantine or remove from circulation” the challenged books, short-circuiting the review process. This appears to have gone against the advice of the school board’s own general counsel, who issued a statement at the time saying that while the board has the power to remove books, “it cannot do so simply because it disagrees with the message of a book or it offends the personal morals of an individual.”


Nevertheless, the books were placed in a restricted section of the libraries and could be accessed only with parental permission, pending reviews by committees assembled to evaluate each title. Eventually, this policy was changed, so only books accused of being harmful to minors or running afoul of the Parental Rights in Education Act — often known as the Don’t Say Gay Law — were sequestered. But that was still a lot of books: Even though the law is written to apply to classroom instruction, the presence of gay or trans characters was enough to get a work pulled from a library. One book taken off elementary school shelves was “And Tango Makes Three,” a picture book based on the true story of two male penguins at the Central Park Zoo that raised a chick together, which one of Durtschi’s daughters had particularly enjoyed. The board eventually voted to permanently remove it.


Durtschi doesn’t blame Baggett for what’s happening at her kids’ school. “The person that is to blame for this is Ron DeSantis,” she told me. It’s DeSantis, after all, who has made the war on wokeness, particularly in schools, central to his political agenda.


“I was probably five feet from Governor DeSantis today who made it very clear to me how he felt about some of this stuff,” Adams said at the school board meeting where “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” was banned. “I wondered why so many students had mental health issues and disciplinary problems, bad disciplinary problems. I believe they’re being poisoned by what they hear and what they read.”


DeSantis has taken legitimate anxiety over student well-being in the wake of the pandemic and channeled it into a spiraling moral panic. “Now these voices — you know, Daughters of the Confederacy, Moms for Liberty”— a right-wing women’s group that has spearheaded book bans nationwide — “they’ve been given license now to bring their hatred to the mainstream,” said Durtschi.


Durtschi, who grew up in an evangelical household and attended a Christian college, said she doesn’t want to “devalue” the feelings of people who might be anxious about what children are encountering in school. But she’s also livid about what her own kids are now learning. “We’re going to teach you how to tie a tourniquet in case of an active shooter, but they can’t know that men and women may not be the only option for a marriage license?” she said incredulously. “I’m OK with some hating me for bucking against it,” she added.


At a meeting the day before the lawsuit was filed, the Escambia County School Board voted to abruptly fire the district’s superintendent, Tim Smith, in part because, acting on the advice of the school board general counsel, he’d balked at removing books. Before Smith left, he offered some parting words to the board. “There’s something bad that exists here,” he said. “There’s something toxic that exists here.” And it doesn’t exist only in Escambia, which is why this lawsuit matters.



8) Amazon Is Everywhere. That’s What Makes It So Vulnerable.

For years, the e-commerce giant could shield its vast archipelago of warehouses against disruptions from workers. Then it got even bigger.

By Noam Scheiber, May 19, 2023

About three dozen people dressed in warm clothing stand together on a grassy area next to a road. Several hold pro-union signs, and a man in the foreground holds a bullhorn to his mouth.
Amazon Labor Union supporters rallied near Amazon’s air hub at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport in Hebron, Ky., in March. Credit...Jon Cherry for The New York Times

Is there a more familiar sign of corporate dominance than the Amazon delivery van?


As recently as four years ago, the blue-gray vehicle with the smiley arrow was a relative novelty among fleets of brown and blue-and-white delivery trucks clogging the streets. Today, the Amazon vans are almost inescapable. Between 2020 and 2022, their numbers more than doubled, to roughly 100,000.


But this symbol of Amazon’s strength may hint at something else: an underappreciated vulnerability.


The vans are just the most visible piece of the company’s vast delivery network. When you place an order for cat toys or razor blades or vacuum bags, Amazon employees typically pluck them off a shelf in a warehouse, then ship them to a succession of buildings, known as sort centers and delivery stations, where they are grouped by destination and loaded onto vans.


The system, which also includes planes and air hubs, has enabled ever-faster delivery, according to data from NIQ (NielsenIQ). It has also made Amazon susceptible to a potent form of labor organizing — choke point organizing — in which workers threaten to hobble a company’s operations by shutting down key sites, known as choke points.


In September 2019, workers at an Amazon delivery station in Sacramento began campaigning for paid personal time off, which many part-time employees in such buildings lacked. With no progress on their demands, the workers walked off their shifts just before Christmas, and the campaign gained momentum at delivery stations in Chicago and New York. In March 2020, Amazon announced that it was providing a paid-time-off benefit that affected more than 10,000 part-time employees at buildings nationwide.


While it is rare for employees to pry loose costly concessions from Amazon, workers who threaten choke points within its delivery network appear to have won concessions multiple times.


Following walkouts over pay and working conditions at two Chicago delivery stations just before Christmas 2021, hundreds of Chicago-area workers received raises of about $2 an hour. After about half of the roughly 1,500 employees at an air hub in San Bernardino, Calif., submitted a petition seeking higher pay last summer, Amazon raised hourly wages for night workers by nearly a dollar. The workers had discussed striking, and dozens later walked out.


Amazon said it made changes to wages, paid time off and other policies on its own, unrelated to the activities of small groups of workers. “Nothing is more important than the safety and well-being of our teams,” said Lisa Levandowski, and Amazon spokeswoman.


But experts argue that the organizing has gotten results. Choke point organizers “have had some success building worker power, challenging the boss, getting some gains,” said Jake Alimahomed-Wilson, a professor at California State University, Long Beach, and an editor of the book “Choke Points: Logistics Workers Disrupting the Global Supply Chain.”


Amazon’s recent growth helped create the choke points that workers have sought to exploit. During its first two decades, the company stayed out of the delivery business and simply handed off your cat toys and razor blades to the likes of UPS, FedEx and the Postal Service.


Amazon began transporting many of its own packages after the 2013 holiday season, when a surge of orders backed up UPS and other carriers. Later, during the pandemic, Amazon significantly increased its transportation footprint to handle a boom in orders while seeking to drive down delivery times. Hence all those new vans.


The problem is that shipping networks are fragile.


If workers walk off the job at one of Amazon’s traditional warehouses, the fulfillment center, the business impact is likely to be minimal because the sheer number of warehouses means orders can be easily redirected to another one.


But a shipping network has far less redundancy. If one site goes down, typically either the packages don’t arrive on time or the site must be bypassed, often at considerable expense. All the more so if the site handles a huge volume of packages.


“That’s truly a position of vulnerability,” said Marc Wulfraat, president of MWPVL International, a supply-chain consulting firm, referring to Amazon’s largest air hub, in Kentucky.


And as Amazon’s chief executive, Andy Jassy, seeks to drive down shipping times further, the disruptive potential of this kind of organizing may be growing.


“Part of the opportunity here to organize has to do with their airfreight operation being a real choke point,” said Griffin Ritze, a driver at the Kentucky hub, where workers have started a union campaign.


Amazon said that its transportation network, including the Kentucky hub, could withstand short-term disruptions with little effect on customers, but that longer disruptions could create inefficiencies and higher costs.


Ms. Levandowski added that the company had invested billions in raising pay and improving training, safety and benefits since the start of the pandemic, but that it knew “there will always be more to do.”


Heirs to the ‘sit-down’ strike


On the evening of Dec. 30, 1936, a local leader of the fledgling United Automobile Workers flashed a red light outside the union’s office, across from a massive General Motors plant in Flint, Mich., summoning the plant’s shop stewards. As plant conditions had deteriorated — not least, the grueling “speed-up” that required some workers to make thousands of hand motions per hour — the union decided it was time to strike for recognition. When the stewards returned to the plant, employees stopped working and refused to leave.


The so-called sit-down strike at the Flint plant and another in Cleveland nearly paralyzed the company because they were known as mother plants: the sole producers of many parts for G.M. assembly plants. After several tense weeks, G.M., which had been hostile to unions, recognized the U.A.W.


But it would not soon forget its vulnerability to strikes. As the sociologists Joshua Murray and Michael Schwartz observed in their book “Wrecked: How the American Automobile Industry Destroyed Its Capacity to Compete,” General Motors and other U.S. automakers spent the next few decades dispersing production across a much wider number of plants. Thereafter, Mr. Murray and Mr. Schwartz wrote, “even if the union mobilized enough workers to shut an entire plant down, the companies now had the option of ramping up production at one of the parallel plants.”


Amazon has moved in a different direction from the automakers in the last century — in some ways making itself more vulnerable, not less, as its business has ballooned.


According to data from MWPVL International, the consulting firm, a small portion of Amazon fulfillment centers ship an extremely high volume of goods — more than one million items a day during last year’s peak period — including JFK8, the Staten Island warehouse where workers voted to join the Amazon Labor Union last spring.


If a union strikes and shuts down one of those buildings, “there will be penalties to pay” for Amazon even with its redundant capacity, said Mr. Wulfraat, MWPVL International’s president. He cited higher transportation costs and possible shipping delays. Amazon said the operational impact would be minimal.


More precarious is the company’s delivery infrastructure, where such extensive redundancy is impractical.


For example, Amazon also operates dozens of so-called sort centers, where often more than 100,000 packages a day are grouped by geographic area. Many metro areas the size of Albuquerque or St. Louis have only one or two such centers, and a metro area as large as Chicago has only four.


If one went down, Mr. Wulfraat said, Amazon could be forced to reroute packages to sort centers in other cities, raising costs. “You couldn’t just call up UPS and say: ‘Tomorrow, we’re going to dump 200,000 packages into your lap. Is that problem?’ They don’t have the bandwidth.” To get a sense of what this could cost, consider that FedEx spent hundreds of millions of dollars on such rerouting in 2021.


Some workers hope to take advantage. After organizers at a sort center on Staten Island lost a vote on whether to unionize last year, they focused on building enough support to force a shutdown at the building, which sorts packages for 15 delivery stations in the New York area.


“It’s not enough to get someone to go and vote yes,” said Madeline Wesley, a worker involved in the organizing. “What we’re going for here is a fundamental shift in the power dynamics.”


Delivery stations, where sort centers send packages so they can be loaded onto vans, can be similarly vulnerable. In the fall of 2021, the company declined to increase pay for many workers in the Chicago area.


“We were told our pay was reviewed in September of 2021 and there would be no raise,” said Ted Miin, a worker involved in organizing at a delivery station there.


But shortly after workers at two delivery stations in the area walked off the job that December, the company increased pay for workers in those buildings by about $2 per hour. “It was pretty clear to us that our walkouts were what won us the raise,” Mr. Miin said.


Amazon said that the group was merely claiming credit for Chicago-area pay adjustments the company had begun making on its own, and that it had taken similar steps at locations where there was no organizing.


There are several reasons a walkout at a delivery station can be effective.


Unlike Amazon’s large fulfillment centers, which typically employ thousands, delivery stations range from a few dozen employees to a few hundred, and the workers tend to be in closer contact.


“Work in a delivery station is more social,” said Charmaine Chua, an expert on logistics and labor organizing at the University of California, Santa Barbara. “That can overcome significant problems with fulfillment centers, of the work being isolated.”


(One exception: fulfillment centers that draw workers from tightknit communities, like one near Tijuana, Mexico, and another near the Somali community in Minnesota, where workers appear to have won concessions in recent years.)


While mobilizing hundreds of workers at a fulfillment center may be daunting, a walkout of several dozen delivery station workers could delay tens of thousands of packages that are supposed to end up on vans by late morning.


And a longer shutdown at one delivery station could take a toll on other buildings.


“It’s not like the I.T. world, where there are multiple redundant systems — one server goes down, and another pops up,” said Chris Freimann, a former manager at a St. Louis-area delivery station. “When one goes down, the others feel the impact of it. The margin of error gets very, very tight.”


Amazon denied this, saying it had the capacity to reallocate packages to other delivery stations with little disruption.


‘Where is Sara?’


On the last Friday in December, Amazon suspended a San Bernardino air hub employee, Sara Fee, who has helped organized co-workers at the site.


The next week, workers wore “Hello, my name is” stickers on which they wrote, “Where is Sara?” They discussed plans to strike if Ms. Fee was fired. The company asked her to return to work by the end of the week.


There is arguably no  bigger target for organizers at Amazon than the company’s air hubs, which it uses to move more than one million packages each day across large distances. The San Bernardino hub is one of a handful that increasingly form the backbone of the company’s air transit system.


This appears to have given workers leverage. In addition to asking Ms. Fee to return, the company announced that it was raising the hourly wage for night shifts by nearly $1 last August — a significant bump in addition to last year’s nationwide pay increase. This was after about half the hub’s roughly 1,500 employees added their names to a petition seeking higher pay.


Amazon said it had brought Ms. Fee back after investigating reports that she yelled at a manager. In response to that allegation, Eli Naduris-Weissman, a lawyer who represents Inland Empire Amazon Workers United, a group organizing workers at the site, said Ms. Fee was an outspoken leader who had suffered retaliation after complaining about being targeted by Amazon.


The company’s facility at the Cincinnati airport in northern Kentucky, which is known as KCVG, is the largest of the hubs. At its 2019 groundbreaking, the company founder, Jeff Bezos, declared, “We’re going to move Prime from two-day to one-day, and this hub is a big part of that.” Then he exhorted, “Let’s move some earth!” and mounted a John Deere front loader.


The number of employees at the Kentucky hub (now well over 2,000) and the number of flights has grown substantially since the facility opened almost two years ago. The Chaddick Institute for Metropolitan Development at DePaul University estimates that the number of Amazon Air flights in or out of KCVG on a typical day more than doubled between early 2022 and early 2023, to over 50.


Amazon said the institute’s reports, which rely on public data, drew inaccurate conclusions but did not dispute the trend in Kentucky. The company said it also continued to ship some packages through UPS and the Postal Service.


Labor organizing has accompanied the increased activity. In September, managers at KCVG told workers that they would receive a small raise — ranging from 50 cents to about $1 an hour, depending on seniority.


Several employees said they had been expecting a “peak” season bonus of at least $2 an hour, which they received the previous year. Some who work on the ramp, where planes are loaded and unloaded, left in frustration after the announcement.


“There are usually around 50 tug drivers,” said Mr. Ritze, a driver involved in the organizing, referring to the trucks that move large containers across the facility. “It went down to 20. Everyone else left, took P.T.O.”


Not long after, a group of organizers submitted a petition with the names of roughly 300 workers asking the company to restore the peak bonus and make it permanent. Members of the group later announced that they were seeking to unionize.


Management didn’t budge on the bonus, but canceled the first week of mandatory extra time, in which employees work up to 60 hours a week between Thanksgiving and Christmas.


The site’s director of operations, Adrian Melendez, said that Amazon had opted for a smaller pay increase that was permanent rather than a larger increase that was temporary, and that most workers understood the rationale. The company said it had canceled a week of mandatory overtime because enough workers had volunteered.


At their spare campaign office near the airport on a morning in February, a handful of union backers said that frustration over the small raise had initially gotten them involved, but that other issues, like safety, also loomed large.


The effort, funded in part by members of the left-wing group Socialist Alternative, appears to have attracted more attention from Amazon recently. After the Amazon Labor Union president, Christian Smalls, appeared in Kentucky in March to offer the union’s support, the company began regularly holding meetings for workers in which it dwelled on the drawbacks of unionizing, according to a recording of one of the meetings.


“Like many other companies, we hold these meetings because it’s important that everyone understands the facts about joining a union and the election process,” said Ms. Levandowski, the Amazon spokeswoman.


Workers may not even need to win a union election in Kentucky in order to extract concessions from the company.


During each shift, dozens of tug drivers move hundreds of package containers, known as cans, between the warehouse and the planes. If the tugs don’t move, neither do the packages.


The company clearly understands the stakes: Workers say managers frequently urge employees who aren’t tug drivers to become “tug-trained” so they can operate tugs in the event of a driver shortage. Amazon said that it was common to cross-train workers and that managers provided support and coaching to employees if the tugs got backed up.


The drivers are aware of their power, too. And many support the union effort.


“Any time there’s a delay, it’s always blamed on the tug drivers — management doesn’t take any responsibility for it,” said Steven Kelley, another worker active in the campaign. “That’s honestly why most of them are in favor.”


If enough tug drivers got fed up and simply refused to move, Mr. Kelley added, “it would shut the whole operation down.”