Bay Area United Against War Newsletter, July 18, 2023


LaborFest 2023 schedule is up!



Dear Friends of LaborFest,


Thank you so much for waiting this year's LaborFest schedule.

Although it's not completed yet, we are finally able to put it up.


This year’s schedule includes history walks, poetry, book readings, play, political discussion, and of course the boat ride. This year’s labor history boat ride might be our last one, so please participate and enjoy. The number is limited on the boat.


If you noticed anything on our web page which needs to be corrected, please let us know. We are an all-volunteer organization, and any help is welcomed.

If you have social media skills and want to help get publicity out about this festival, please contact us too, and please get this out to other lists you are on. 


Lastly, please post photos, videos, and comments on our social media platforms.


See you soon,


Kazmi Torii

LaborFest Organizing Committee









No one is coming to save us, but us.


We need visionary politics, collective strategy, and compassionate communities now more than ever. In a moment of political uncertainty, the Socialism Conference—September 1-4, in Chicago—will be a vital gathering space for today’s left. Join thousands of organizers, activists, and socialists to learn from each other and from history, assess ongoing struggles, build community, and experience the energy of in-person gatherings.


Featured speakers at Socialism 2023 will include: Naomi Klein, Ruth Wilson Gilmore, Robin D.G. Kelley, aja monet, Bettina Love, Olúfẹmi O. Táíwò, Sophie Lewis, Harsha Walia, Dina Gilio-Whitaker, Astra Taylor, Malcolm Harris, Kelly Hayes, Daniel Denvir, Emily Drabinski, Ilya Budraitskis, Dave Zirin, and many more.


The Socialism Conference is brought to you by Haymarket Books and dozens of endorsing left-wing organizations and publications, including Jacobin, DSA, EWOC, In These Times, Debt Collective, Dream Defenders, the Autonomous Tenant Union Network, N+1, Jewish Currents, Lux, Verso Books, Pluto Press, and many more. 


Register for Socialism 2023 by July 7 for the early bird discounted rate! Registering TODAY is the single best way you can help support, sustain, and expand the Socialism Conference. The sooner that conference organizers can gauge conference attendance, the bigger and better the conference will be!


Learn more and register for Socialism 2023

September 1-4, 2023, Chicago



Attendees are expected to wear a mask (N95, K95, or surgical mask) over their mouth and nose while indoors at the conference. Masks will be provided for those who do not have one.


A number of sessions from the conference will also be live-streamed virtually so that those unable to attend in person can still join us.

Copyright © 2023 Jacobin, All rights reserved.

You are receiving these messages because you opted in through our signup form, or at time of subscription/purchase.


Our mailing address is:


388 Atlantic Ave

Brooklyn, NY 11217-3399


Add us to your address book:




How you you can help:


1. Host any or all of the Tampa 5 in your city or on your local campus as we conduct a speaking tour around the country


2. Sign your organization onto this petition and help us spread the word about the Tampa 5:



The Tampa 5 are students and workers who attended a Tampa Bay Students for a Democratic Society protest on March 6th to save diversity programs at the University of South Florida and to oppose Ron DeSantis' anti-education bill, HB999. They were attacked, arrested, and now charged with felonies by the University of South Florida Police Department. Their felonies and potential prison time were doubled by the unelected, DeSantis-appointed state attorney, Susan Lopez, and her underling, Justin Diaz. They now face five to ten years in prison for exercising their right to protest and freedom of speech. The students were suspended and one of the five, the campus worker, Chrisley Carpio, was fired from her job at the university.


On June 24th, over 130 attendees of an emergency defense conference founded a new organization: the Emergency Committee to Defend the Tampa 5, which is national in scope. We are embarking on a long-term defense campaign to get the charges dropped and to defend the right to free speech in the state of Florida, and we need your help!


Thanks so much for your solidarity and support so far, and we'll see you in the streets!



Free Julian Assange

Immediate Repeated Action Needed to Free Assange


Please call your Congressional Representatives, the White House, and the DOJ. Calls are tallied—they do count.  We are to believe we are represented in this country.  This is a political case, so our efforts can change things politically as well.  Please take this action as often as you can:


Find your representatives:



Leave each of your representatives a message individually to: 

·      Drop the charges against Julian Assange

·      Speak out publicly against the indictment and

·      Sign on to Rashida Tlaib's letter to the DOJ to drop the charges: 

           202-224-3121—Capitol Main Switchboard 


Leave a message on the White House comment line to 

Demand Julian Assange be pardoned: 


             Tuesday–Thursday, 11:00 A.M.–3:00 P.M. EST


Call the DOJ and demand they drop the charges against Julian Assange:

             202-353-1555—DOJ Comment Line

             202-514-2000 Main Switchboard 



Mumia Abu-Jamal is Innocent!


Write to Mumia at:

Smart Communications/PADOC

Mumia Abu-Jamal #AM-8335

SCI Mahanoy

P.O. Box 33028

St. Petersburg, FL 33733



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.



Urgent Health Call-In Campaign for Political Prisoner Ed Poindexter


Watch the moving video of Ed's Niece and Sister at the April 26, 2023, UN EMLER Hearing in Atlanta: https://youtu.be/aKwV7LQ5iww


Ed needs to be released to live the rest of his life outside of prison, with his family! (His niece Ericka is now 52 years old and was an infant when Ed was targeted, stolen from his home, jailed, framed, and railroaded.)


Ed Poindexter's left leg was amputated below the knee in early April due to lack of proper medical care. Ed has diabetes and receives dialysis several 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 (402-471-2861);


·      Warden Wilhelm of the Nebraska State Penitentiary (402-471-3161);


·      Governor Pillen, the State of Nebraska Office of the Governor (402-471-2244);


·      Director Rob Jeffreys, Nebraska Department of Corrections 402-471-2654;


The Nebraska Board of Pardons

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


Please sustain calls daily through 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:


“I'm calling to urge that Ed Poindexter, #27767, be given immediate compassionate release.


“In April 2023, Ed's niece and brother found out that Ed’s leg had been amputated earlier in the month. And it happened without notice to Ed’s family! This was all 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 a lot 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 Compassionate Release, and that he be immediately released to hospice at home.”


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:




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



Sign the petition:




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.







A Plea for the Compassionate Release of 

Leonard Peltier

Self Portrait by Leonard Peltier

Video at:


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: 


Portland, Oregon: (833) 680-1312

San Francisco, California: (415) 285-1041 or fbi_hotline@nlgsf.org

Seattle, Washington: (206) 658-7963

National Hotline

If you are located in an area with no hotline, you can call the following number:


National NLG Federal Defense Hotline: (212) 679-2811






1) Amazon Union Dissidents, in Challenge to Leader, Move to Force Vote

A split over the stewardship of the union’s high-profile president, Christian Smalls, has led a rival faction to file a lawsuit seeking an election.

By Noam Scheiber, July 10, 2023

A man wearing an orange sweatshirt, orange sweatpants and a backward orange baseball cap stands at a bank of microphones outside an office building as news crews look on. Two demonstrators in the background hold signs in support of the union.
Christian Smalls, president of the Amazon Labor Union. A dissident group contends that the union has illegally postponed an election of top officers. Credit...DeSean McClinton-Holland for The New York Times

A dissident group within the Amazon Labor Union, the only certified union in the country representing Amazon employees, filed a complaint in federal court Monday seeking to force the union to hold a leadership election.


The union won an election at a Staten Island warehouse with more than 8,000 employees in April 2022, but Amazon has challenged the result and has yet to begin bargaining on a contract.


The rise of the dissident group, which calls itself the A.L.U. Democratic Reform Caucus and includes a co-founder and former treasurer of the union, reflects a growing split within the union that appears to have undermined its ability to pressure Amazon. The split has also threatened to sap the broader labor movement of the momentum generated by last year’s high-profile victory.


In its complaint, the reform caucus argues that the union and its president, Christian Smalls, illegally “refuse to hold officer elections which should have been scheduled no later than March 2023.”


The complaint asks a federal judge to schedule an election of the union’s top officers for no later than Aug. 30 and to appoint a neutral monitor to oversee the election.


Mr. Smalls said in a text message Monday that the complaint was “a ridiculous claim with zero facts or merit,” and a law firm representing the union said it would seek legal sanctions against the reform group’s lawyer if the complaint was filed.


The complaint states that under an earlier version of the union’s constitution, a leadership election was required within 60 days of the National Labor Relations Board’s certification of its victory.


But in December, the month before the labor board certification, the union’s leadership presented a new constitution to the membership that scheduled elections after the union ratifies a contract with Amazon — an accomplishment that could take years, if it happens at all.


On Friday, the reform caucus sent the union’s leadership a letter laying out its proposal to hold prompt elections, saying it would go to court Monday if the leadership didn’t embrace the proposal.


The reform group is made of up more than 40 active organizers who are also plaintiffs in the legal complaint, including Connor Spence, a union co-founder and former treasurer; Brett Daniels, the union’s former organizing director; and Brima Sylla, a prominent organizer at the Staten Island warehouse.


The group said in its letter that enacting the proposal could “mean the difference between an A.L.U. which is strong, effective, and a beacon of democracy in the labor movement” and “an A.L.U. which, in the end, became exactly what Amazon warned workers it would become: a business that takes away the workers’ voices.”


Mr. Smalls said in his text that the union leadership had worked closely with its law firm to ensure that its actions were legal, as well as with the U.S. Labor Department.


Jeanne Mirer, a lawyer for the union, wrote to a lawyer for the reform caucus that the lawsuit was frivolous and based on falsehoods. She said that Mr. Spence had “improperly and unilaterally” replaced the union’s founding constitution with a revised version in June 2022, and that the revision, which called for elections after certification, had never been formally adopted by the union’s board.


Retu Singla, another lawyer for the union, said in an interview that the constitution was never made final because there were disagreements about it within the union’s leadership.


Mr. Spence said he and other members of the union’s board had revised the constitution while consulting extensively with the union’s lawyers. A second union official involved in the discussions corroborated his account.


The split within the union dates from last fall, when several longtime Amazon Labor Union organizers became frustrated with Mr. Smalls after a lopsided loss in a union election at an Amazon warehouse near Albany, N.Y.


In a meeting shortly after the election, organizers argued that control of the union rested in too few hands and that the leadership should be elected, giving rank-and-file workers more input.


The skeptics also complained that Mr. Smalls was committing the union to elections without a plan for how to win them, and that the union needed a better process for determining which organizing efforts to support. Many organizers worried that Mr. Smalls spent too much time traveling the country to make public appearances rather than focus on the contract fight on Staten Island.


Mr. Smalls later said in an interview that his travel was necessary to help raise money for the union and that the critics’ preferred approach — building up worker support for a potential strike that could bring Amazon to the bargaining table — was counterproductive because it could alarm workers who feared losing their livelihoods.


He said a worker-led movement shouldn’t turn its back on workers at other warehouses if they sought to unionize. A top union official hired by Mr. Smalls also argued that holding an election before the union had a more systematic way of reaching out to workers would be undemocratic because only the most committed activists would vote.


When Mr. Smalls unveiled the new union constitution in December, scheduling elections after a contract was ratified, many of the skeptics walked out. The two factions have operated independently this year, with both sides holding regular meetings with members.


In April, the reform caucus began circulating a petition among workers at the Staten Island warehouse calling on the leadership to amend the constitution and hold prompt elections. The petition has been signed by hundreds of workers at the facility.


The petition soon became a point of tension with Mr. Smalls. In an exchange with a member of the reform caucus on WhatsApp in early May, copies of which are included in Monday’s legal complaint, Mr. Smalls said the union would “take legal action against you” if the caucus did not abandon the petition.


The tensions appeared to ease later that month after the union leadership under Mr. Smalls proposed that the two sides enter mediation. The reform caucus accepted the invitation and suspended the petition campaign.


But according to a memo that the mediator, Bill Fletcher Jr., sent both sides on June 29 and that was viewed by The New York Times, the union leadership backed out of the mediation process on June 18 without explanation.


“I am concerned that the apparent turmoil within the ALU E. Board means that little is being done to organize the workers and prepare for the battle with Amazon,” Mr. Fletcher wrote in the memo, referring to the union’s executive board. “This situation seriously weakens support among the workers.



2) F.D.A. Approves First U.S. Over-the-Counter Birth Control Pill

The move could significantly expand access to contraception. The pill is expected to be available in early 2024.

By Pam Belluck, July 13, 2023

Pam Belluck has covered reproductive health for more than a decade.

The birth control medication Opill in its box, which is light green with blue, purple, pink and white markings.
Perrigo, via Associated Press

The Food and Drug Administration on Thursday approved a birth control pill to be sold without a prescription for the first time in the United States, a milestone that could significantly expand access to contraception.


The medication, called Opill, will become the most effective birth control method available over the counter — more effective at preventing pregnancy than condoms, spermicides and other nonprescription methods. Experts in reproductive health said its availability could be especially useful for young women, teenagers and those who have difficulty dealing with the time, costs or logistical hurdles involved in visiting a doctor to obtain a prescription.


The pill’s manufacturer, Perrigo Company, based in Dublin, said Opill would most likely become available from stores and online retailers in the United States in early 2024.


The company did not say how much the medication would cost — a key question that will help determine how many people will use the pill — but Frédérique Welgryn, Perrigo’s global vice president for women’s health, said in a statement that the company was committed to making the pill “accessible and affordable to women and people of all ages.” Ms. Welgryn has also said the company would have a consumer assistance program to provide the pill at no cost to some women.


“Today’s approval marks the first time a nonprescription daily oral contraceptive will be an available option for millions of people in the United States,” Dr. Patrizia Cavazzoni, director of the F.D.A.’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, said in a statement. “When used as directed, daily oral contraception is safe and is expected to be more effective than currently available nonprescription contraceptive methods in preventing unintended pregnancy.”


Since the Supreme Court overturned the national right to an abortion last year, the accessibility of contraception has become an increasingly urgent issue. But long before that, the move to make a nonprescription pill available for all ages had received widespread support from specialists in reproductive and adolescent health and groups like the American Medical Association, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Academy of Family Physicians.


In a survey last year by the health care research organization KFF, more than three-quarters of women of reproductive age said they favored an over-the-counter pill, primarily because of convenience. Nearly 40 percent said they would be likely to use it. Those most likely to opt for the product included women already taking birth control pills, women without health insurance and Hispanic women, the survey found.


And strikingly, at a time of fierce divisions over abortion, many anti-abortion groups have declined to criticize over-the-counter birth control. Opposition appears to come primarily from some Catholic organizations and Students for Life Action.


In May, a panel of 17 independent scientific advisers to the F.D.A. — including obstetrician-gynecologists, adolescent medicine specialists, a breast cancer specialist and experts in consumer health behavior and health literacy — voted unanimously that the benefits of making a birth control pill available without a prescription vastly outweighed the risks.


The panel cited the long history of safety and efficacy of Opill, which was approved for prescription use 50 years ago. The over-the-counter pill will be identical to the prescription version, which is 93 percent effective at preventing pregnancy with typical use.


Several panelists said there was a pressing public health need for an over-the-counter option in a country where nearly half of all pregnancies are unintended.


“The evidence demonstrates that the benefits clearly exceed the risks,” said one advisory committee member, Kathryn Curtis, a health scientist with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s division of reproductive health.


She added: “I think Opill has the potential to have a huge positive public health impact.”


For proponents of over-the-counter pills, the main issue is affordability.


“If available equitably — meaning that they are priced affordably and fully covered by insurance — over-the-counter birth control pills will be a game-changer for communities impacted by systemic health inequities,” said Dr. Daniel Grossman, director of Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health, who has led research on over-the-counter contraception.


The Affordable Care Act requires heath insurance plans to pay for prescription contraception, but not over-the-counter methods. Some states have laws mandating coverage of over-the-counter birth control, but most states do not. The KFF survey found that 10 percent of women would not be able or willing to pay any out-of-pocket cost for contraception. About 40 percent would pay $10 or less per month, and about a third would pay $20 or less.


Under a recent executive order by President Biden, the federal government could soon take steps toward requiring insurers to cover over-the-counter birth control. And Senate Democrats have reintroduced legislation to require such coverage.


“We need to make it affordable and available,” Senator Patty Murray, a Democrat from Washington State and the lead sponsor of the bill, said in an interview in May. “Let’s provide women what they need and make sure it’s affordable so there’s equity, and women who are low-income, women who for whatever reason are struggling don’t have to be forced to not have any birth control simply because they can’t afford it today,” she added.


Opill is known as a “mini pill” because it contains only one hormone, progestin, in contrast to “combination” pills, which contain both progestin and estrogen. A company that makes a combination pill, Cadence Health, has also been in discussions with the F.D.A. about applying for over-the-counter status.


The F.D.A. analysts who evaluated the data Perrigo submitted in its application for a nonprescription Opill had raised concerns about whether women with medical conditions that should preclude them from taking birth control pills — primarily breast cancer and undiagnosed vaginal bleeding — would follow the warnings and avoid the product. The F.D.A. analysts also raised questions about whether younger adolescents and people with limited literacy could follow the directions.


But in a memo explaining the approval decision on Thursday, Karen Murry, deputy director of the F.D.A.’s office of nonprescription drugs, wrote, “For an individual consumer of the product, the risk is very low, and almost nonexistent if they read and follow the labeling.”


“Overall,” she continued, “the total public health impact of the potential harm related to incorrect use by people with progestin-sensitive cancer is likely outweighed by the probable larger public health impact of prevention of a large number of unintended pregnancies with all their attendant harms.”


Several advisory committee members said patients with breast cancer, the main medical condition that precludes taking hormonal contraception, typically have doctors who would advise them to avoid birth control pills. They also said that Opill might actually be safest for adolescents because they are very unlikely to have breast cancer. And because young people often start off with contraception they can buy over-the-counter, it is especially important for them to have easy access to a method more effective than condoms and other birth control products available in retail stores, the panelists said.


Perrigo reported that participants in a study took Opill on 92.5 percent of the days they were supposed to take it. Most participants who missed a pill reported that they had followed the label’s directions to take mitigating steps, such as abstaining from sex or using a condom, Dr. Stephanie Sober, the company’s U.S. medical liaison, said at the advisory committee hearing. She said that among 955 participants, only six became pregnant while using Opill.


Most people who said they had missed doses attributed that to running out of pills before they could get to one of the study’s resupply sites, results that, Dr. Sober said, “illustrate precisely the barriers to adherence that could be lessened” by making the pill available over the counter.



3) Racism and Sexism Underlie Higher Maternal Death Rates for Black Women, U.N. Says

Black women in Latin America, the Caribbean and the United States are more likely than their white counterparts to report denial of medication or physical and verbal abuse in health care settings.

By Emily Baumgaertner and Farnaz Fassihi, July 12, 2023

A view looking into a hospital room where a pregnant woman walks around. Another person rests their elbows on a hospital cot in the room.
A pregnant woman in labor paces as a delivery room is prepared at a hospital in Para State, Brazil. Credit...Tarso Sarraf/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

A new United Nations analysis of Black women’s experiences during pregnancy and childbirth in the Americas has concluded that systemic racism and sexism in medical systems — not genetics or lifestyle choices — are the main reasons they are more likely to experience serious complications or even death.


The report, published Wednesday by the U.N.’s sexual and reproductive health agency, the United Nations Population Fund, surveyed data from countries in the Americas, including the United States. It found that Black women were more likely than their white counterparts to report denial of medication or physical and verbal abuse in health care settings, leading to more severe complications, delayed treatment and worse.


Black women were more likely to die during or soon after childbirth, the analysis found, though it did not specify how much more likely.


Why It Matters: The problem extends beyond the United States.


The United States’ maternal death rates have drawn public concern in recent years, with mounting evidence of Black women’s experiences of discrimination and dismissal in health care settings. In the new report, the U.N. expanded the scope of the issue to include the rest of the Americas.


Direct country-to-country comparisons were difficult because most of the nations analyzed did not collect maternal health or death data by race. The U.N. researchers looked at data from 35 countries in Latin America, North America and the Caribbean, but found sufficient data to include only nine in the report: Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Panama, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, the United States and Uruguay.


Still, this is the first time the U.N. has examined available data on the maternal health of Black women across the Americas. “The result is horrendous,” said Dr. Natalia Kanem, executive director of the agency.


Dr. Kanem, who is herself a physician and Black, called the problem “a human rights crisis that is largely ignored or overlooked by decision makers.”


The U.N. analysis said that high maternal death rates among Black women have historically been attributed to genetic factors and lifestyle choices, rather than patterns of bias that begin in medical school and continue through health service delivery.


Medical school curriculums, for example, include erroneous claims that Black women’s nerve endings are “less sensitive” and require less anesthesia, and that Black women’s blood coagulates faster than that of white women, leading to delayed treatment for dangerous hemorrhages, according to the report. It also found that textbook illustrations of childbirth were depicted on European women’s pelvic anatomy, which could cause unnecessary interventions when nonwhite variability was deemed “abnormal or high-risk.”


“When a Black woman dies during childbirth, whether in São Paulo, Bogotá or New York, it’s often put down to her lifestyle or to individual failure: She didn’t get there in time to see the doctor or the nurse, she made poor life decisions, she was predisposed to certain medical conditions. And then the world moves on,” Dr. Kanem said.


The new report, she said, “categorically refutes that.”


Background: Maternal deaths are on the rise.


The overall maternal mortality ratio of maternal deaths per 100,000 live births in Latin America, North America and the Caribbean increased by about 15 percent between 2016 and 2020, piquing officials’ interest in possible contributing factors, including race. There are more than 200 million people of African descent in the Americas — one in four people in Latin America and the Caribbean, and one in seven in the United States and Canada.


Among countries that provide maternal death rates by race, the United States has the lowest death rate overall, but the widest racial disparities. Black women in the United States are three times more likely than white women to die during or soon after childbirth. Those problems persist across income and education levels, as Black women with college degrees are still 1.6 times as likely to die in childbirth than white women who have not finished high school.


What’s Next: U.N. calls medical schools, health care providers and governments to action.


U.N. officials urged medical schools to re-examine their curriculums and hospitals to strengthen policies surrounding denial of care and patient abuse. Medical teams must also consider innovative ways to help Black women overcome structural barriers that make it difficult to receive sufficient prenatal care, officials said, such as a lack of access to reliable transportation and insurance. The agency suggested partnerships with various Black traditional healers and midwives to help navigate longstanding reservations.


The U.N. project also revealed a profound dearth of surveillance data, which has likely kept the problems from becoming well known, it said. The report encouraged every country to enhance its data collection efforts. Without a transparent look at the problem, the report said, it will be near impossible to design interventions to remedy it.



4) ‘Earth Mama’ Review: A Mother Dreams Inside a Brutal System

In Savanah Leaf’s moving, intimate feature debut, a pregnant woman tries to regain custody of her two children in foster care.

By Manohla Dargis, July 13, 2023

Two pregnant women sit in a nondescript room looking pensive.
Tia Nomore, right, who stars as a pregnant single mother in “Earth Mama,” with Doechii. Credit...Sundance Institute/A24

There are moments in “Earth Mama,” a drama about motherhood at its most fragile, when the movie’s quiet intensity seems to settle in your chest, as if a heavy stone had been placed over your heart. Written and directed by Savanah Leaf — this is her feature debut — the film is intimate, modestly scaled and often so outwardly unassuming that you might not at first notice its artistry. It also features one of the most expressive scenes that I’ve seen all year, one that reveals a world of heartache with a single camera movement.


Leaf eases you into the movie, which centers on Gia (a lovely Tia Nomore), a pregnant single mother in recovery with two kids in foster care. In tight, precise scenes, Leaf sketches in Gia’s life, its uncertain horizons and crushing limitations. Gia lives in the Bay Area, where she shares an apartment with her sister, an elusive figure in her life, and works in a mall portrait studio. Mostly, Gia struggles to get her kids back, a time-consuming process that involves a reunification program in which she’s constantly monitored. She has check-ins with a case worker and takes classes with other mothers; at one point, she pees in a cup.


The story tracks Gia as she works, attends the program, visits her kids (brief, aching interludes) and simply navigates a life whose precarity — her card is declined at a store, her phone is running out of minutes — imbues every day with a steady undercurrent of tension. Gia is doing everything right; she’s following the rules and staying clean. Yet she can’t get ahead. The program’s demands mean that she can’t work more hours, but because she can’t work more, she’s behind in child-support payments, which in turn earns her a scolding from her case worker. If the system seems rigged for Gia to fail, it’s because, Leaf suggests, it is.


That might sound bleak, but while the film provides an emotional workout (there will be tears), it never drags you down. Leaf’s delicate touch and refusal to punish or demonize any of her characters are crucial in this respect, as is her attention to beauty. (The cinematographer is Jody Lee Lipes.) The film’s drama emerges when Gia, with the help of a social worker, Miss Carmen (Erika Alexander, a strong, vital presence), meets a family of three for a potential open adoption. Played by Bokeem Woodbine, Kamaya Jones and a heart-rending Sharon Duncan-Brewster, the family is lovely, as is the diffuse light illuminating their anxious faces. (The very fine cast also includes Doechii and Keta Price.)


Leaf based “Earth Mama” on “The Heart Still Hums” (2020), a short documentary about mothers and children that she made with the actress Taylor Russell. For the new film, Leaf has deftly balanced expressionism with impressionism, an approach that allows her to convey Gia’s inner life and the world pressing in on her. From the start, you see and hear what this often reserved, watchful woman does, the attentiveness with which she listens to other women in the program — many played by nonprofessionals telling their stories — who share hurt that she can’t or won’t. Leaf also makes you acutely sensitive to Gia’s physicality, her waddle and sweat, and how her huge jutting belly dominates her otherwise tiny body.


How Gia’s pregnancy defines her present, and how it promises to shape her future, gives the story momentum and feeling. Gia wants the baby but is fixated on reclaiming her son and daughter. She’s only allowed to see them infrequently during short, supervised visits in an institutional room made bleaker by its toys and little chairs. The first visit takes place early in the film, and at that point you don’t know how many kids Gia has. She greets a boy, and as they talk the camera drifts right, a movement that’s so discreet you scarcely notice it until it stops on a girl, who’s now in the foreground of the shot, her head down and her back to Gia.


With one jolting, extraordinary image, you grasp that Gia has two children, and that Leaf has told you everything you really need to know about the family and its tragedy. Snippets of Gia’s history emerge throughout “Earth Mama,” but much remains unsaid and unexplained. These include the kinds of biographical and sociological details that can turn similarly themed movies into lectures, viewers into voyeurs and protagonists into object lessons. By focusing instead on Gia’s existential reality — her habits, the pleasure she gets from her job, the awkwardness of her gait — Leaf humanizes her. It’s very moving, and adamantly political.


Every so often, you see Gia dreaming or slipping into a reverie, which happens one night when her son calls her at home, whimpering. “Once you’re in bed, OK, just pretend that I’m there,” Gia says softly, and then she starts playing a song they like. (A piercing version of “Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye” sung by Bettye Swann.) Gia stares into the distance, clearly upset. In the next shot, though, she is at a window looking out onto a stand of redwoods. The song fades, replaced by soft musical notes and what sounds like a heartbeat. She’s dreamed herself into another reality. She shuts her eyes, but when she opens them, her gaze is steady.


Earth Mama

Rated R for language and drug use. Running time: 1 hour 37 minutes. In theaters.



5) Boots Riley on Labor Strikes, Anti-Police Messaging in ‘I’m a Virgo’ and Working With Amazon as a Communist

By Selome Hailu

—Variety, June 23, 2023

PARK CITY, UTAH - JANUARY 19: Boots Riley and Nikyatu Jusu attend Sundance Institute's Inaugural Opening Night: A Taste Of Sundance Presented By IMDb at The Basin Recreation Fieldhouse on January 19, 2023 in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Arturo Holmes/Getty Images)











Boots Riley

At the end of Boots Riley’s 2018 debut feature, “Sorry to Bother You,” Cassius (LaKeith Stanfield) gets stretched and mutilated beyond recognition until he becomes a horse — all in service of the film’s cutting narrative about how capitalism is crushing us all. In “I’m a Virgo,” Riley’s new Amazon Prime Video series, that stretching comes before the story begins: 19-year-old Cootie (Jharrel Jerome) is 13 feet tall, and he ends up under attack when the city of Oakland learns about the giant living in its backyard — again, all in service of a cutting narrative about how capitalism is crushing us all.


“I believe that people should democratically control the wealth that we create with our labor,” says Riley, 52. The writer-director has identified as a communist since before he gained recognition for founding the political hip-hop group the Coup in 1991. “How do you get the working class to organize together? Through them understanding where their power is, and under capitalism, our power is in the withholding of labor. There needs to be a mass, militant, radical labor movement that turns more radical as it goes on, until the people actually take over the places that they work and change the nature of society.”


“I don’t know if my politics have evolved [since ‘Sorry to Bother You’],” he adds. “The thing that has evolved is my artistic approach to talking about the same thing.”


Between Cassius and Cootie, Riley is clearly fascinated by extreme body imagery and depictions of sub- and superhumans. “Often, even with my music, I’m trying to make you feel something. Physically feel something,” he says of this motif in his work. “That might be dancing; it might be sexual; it might even repulse you. I don’t want to make stuff that you go do chores while it’s playing in the background. What I want from my art is real engagement with it, and to me, good art is visceral.”


The appeal of making Cootie 13 feet tall was in the “immediate contradictions that show up just from his existence.” More specifically, Cootie’s height helps to exaggerate the way that his Blackness prevents the powers that be from seeing his interiority and individuality. That’s where the show’s title comes from.


“No matter what this person feels about themselves, that’s not going to outshine what everyone else feels about them. It doesn’t really matter that he thinks [of himself as] a Virgo,” Riley explains. “What’s happening to him has to do with the world’s idea of where he fits in. It’s a 13-foot-tall Black man in Oakland called ‘I’m a Virgo’ — that’s why it sounds so funny. Because we automatically think, why the fuck does he care that he’s a Virgo?”


The villain in Cootie’s story started out as his hero — literally. The Hero (Walton Goggins) is a Bruce Wayne-like billionaire with his own line of idolizing comics, which Riley uses to examine his own relationship with what he labels as propaganda.


“When I was 12, I really wanted to be a superhero. I was really into comic books, so I relate to Cootie, but also to The Hero,” Riley says. “Had I not been saved, first by Prince, then by joining a revolutionary organization, that would have led into that ideology around superheroes, which justifies what police do.”


Riley uses The Hero’s storyline as a stylized argument against policing and prisons, but interestingly, the mogul’s melancholy inner life also finds its way to the screen.


“To make the characters human, I have to find what part of me resonates,” he says. “Most people, even if they’re doing terrible things, believe they’re doing the right thing. It doesn’t serve the analysis to have this person doing the wrong thing because they’re bad. They’re doing the wrong thing because they got it wrong.”


Riley’s instinct to put a small piece of his own politics into his villain is guided by an experience from his 20s, when he and a friend were pulled over by a cop in Oakland: “My friend was like, ‘Look, fuck you. You’re just part of the occupying force.’ And the cop was like, ‘What do you mean?’ He broke it down in five minutes to him, and the cop was crying and walked away.”


“I’m not just against police because they’re sometimes brutal, or they sometimes murder people,” Riley says. “It’s about what they’re here for in the first place and what position they have under capitalism. People think, ‘Maybe if they weren’t murderous and brutal, then it would be okay,” and then you can have other propaganda that makes them seem nicer. But it really doesn’t matter what kind of person they are. It’s about their function under this system.”


As with “Sorry to Bother You,” “I’m a Virgo” features characters who become newly class-conscious and find themselves embroiled in major labor conflicts. After slipping out from under his parents’ watchful eyes, Cootie enters the real world for the first time and makes new friends, including a staunch leftist named Jones (Kara Young). He begins searching for ways to use his monstrous size in the fight against capitalistic evils.


It’s not lost on Riley that he’s releasing the show while on strike himself, as a member of the Writers Guild of America. He says he has deals in place for three movies, two of which are already written and “will go as soon as we’re done striking.” In the meantime, he’s thrilled that the WGA strike has given the timing of “I’m a Virgo” a “context happening in the world for the work I’m doing.”


“All of my work has some sort of struggle, often to do with strikes and labor,” Riley says. “I’m loving that people are seeming to get it. Not only is it happening right now with the WGA and SAG, but in the last three years, there have been 2,918 strikes and work stoppages in the United States. Depending on the poll, anywhere between 40% and 51% of people in the U.S. would rather have a socialist world. We’re in a place we haven’t been at before in most of our lifetimes, and that’s what I’ve been trying to help instigate.”


The irony of airing a show with these politics on a platform owned by corporate behemoth Amazon doesn’t escape Riley either — he’s got critiques to spare.


“Two of the biggest investors in Amazon, the Vanguard fund and the BlackRock fund, are also two of the biggest investors in Netflix. In Disney. In Warner,” he says. “The people that own these companies are just using different avatars for different ways of doing business. You got Disney with sweatshops making stuffed animals, and you also got Amazon with union-busting in their distribution centers.”


That said, the number of people Riley can reach has always been his biggest priority.


“There’s no clean way to get stuff done. The Coup’s first album came out on EMI Records, which was a major international megacorporation,” he says. “I’ve never been out there pushing, ‘Let’s make a gentler capitalism,’ or trying to get people to buy from Peet’s instead of Starbucks. The small capitalists are trying to be the bigger capitalists. We need to tear it all down. That’s the corporate anti-capitalism that’s sold to us, that there’s companies that are better.”


“But the only reason people have ever heard of my art is because that’s what we’ve been doing.”



6) A Climate Hawk’s Issues With Electric Vehicles

By Peter Coy, July 14, 2023

“Imagine some wheelbarrows filled with rocks. The rocks contain lithium, cobalt, manganese, nickel, graphite and other materials for lithium-ion batteries. By Toyota’s calculation, the amount of rocks needed for one long-range electric vehicle would be enough for either six plug-in hybrids or 90 of the type of hybrid that can’t be plugged in for a recharge. (Namely, the type whose batteries are recharged from the engine or from braking.)

“The overall carbon reduction of those 90 hybrids over their lifetimes is 37 times as much as a single battery electric vehicle,” Toyota argues. That’s a stunning statistic if true. … ‘Toyota’s claim is accurate. We’ve crunched the numbers on this,’ Ashley Nunes told me. He is a senior research associate at Harvard Law School and the director for federal policy, climate and energy at the Breakthrough Institute, a think tank. …The production of electric vehicles produces more greenhouse gases than the production of cars with combustion engines. So, E.V.s have to travel between 28,000 and 68,000 miles before they have an emissions advantage over similarly sized and equipped ICE-mobiles [internal combustion engines], according to Nunes. That may take 10 years or more if the E.V. isn’t driven much.”

An illustration depicting the front of an orange-tinted truck, its hood open and revealing a blue-and-white Earth in miniature.
Illustration by The New York Times; images by CSA Images/Getty Images

I get why the Biden administration is pushing electric vehicles so hard. To stop the planet from overheating, we’ll eventually need motor vehicles to produce zero greenhouse gas emissions, and only fully electric vehicles can do that. Hybrids, which have combustion engines along with electric motors, will always puff some carbon dioxide (and other bad stuff) out of their tailpipes.


Right now, though, there’s a good argument to be made that the government, and automakers, are leaning too hard into all-electric and neglecting the virtues of hybrid technology. When I first heard this counterintuitive argument from Toyota, I dismissed it as heel-dragging by a company that lags in electrics, but I’ve come around to the idea that hybrids — at least for now — do have a lot of advantages over all-electric vehicles.


Imagine some wheelbarrows filled with rocks. The rocks contain lithium, cobalt, manganese, nickel, graphite and other materials for lithium-ion batteries. By Toyota’s calculation, the amount of rocks needed for one long-range electric vehicle would be enough for either six plug-in hybrids or 90 of the type of hybrid that can’t be plugged in for a recharge. (Namely, the type whose batteries are recharged from the engine or from braking.)


“The overall carbon reduction of those 90 hybrids over their lifetimes is 37 times as much as a single battery electric vehicle,” Toyota argues. That’s a stunning statistic if true.


“People involved in the auto industry are largely a silent majority,” Toyota’s then chief executive, Akio Toyoda, told reporters on a trip to Thailand in December, according to The Wall Street Journal. “That silent majority is wondering whether E.V.s are really OK to have as a single option. But they think it’s the trend so they can’t speak out loudly.”


Lobbying against an all-electric approach is what you might expect from an automaker that bet heavily on hydrogen fuel cells and hybrids and has only a sliver of the market in E.V.s that run on batteries. I have no doubt that Toyota is motivated at least in part by self-interest. But some people I spoke with who aren’t connected with the company had similar views.


“Toyota’s claim is accurate. We’ve crunched the numbers on this,” Ashley Nunes told me. He is a senior research associate at Harvard Law School and the director for federal policy, climate and energy at the Breakthrough Institute, a think tank. He testified on the topic in April before the House Subcommittee on Environment, Manufacturing and Critical Materials.


I’ll speed through his points. Electric vehicles consume huge quantities of lithium and other materials because they have huge batteries. And they have huge batteries because customers suffer from “range anxiety” and won’t buy an E.V. unless it can go for hundreds of miles without charging — even though the vast majority of trips are short. The Nissan Leaf gets 149 miles with its standard battery, which seems like enough for most purposes, yet Nissan sold just 12,026 Leafs (Leaves?) last year.


Partly because of ever-bigger batteries, E.V.s are getting more expensive on average, not cheaper as was predicted. They are out of many buyers’ price range. Some people will keep driving old ICE-mobiles (cars with internal combustion engines) because they can’t afford an E.V. And those ICE-mobiles will continue to be major emitters of greenhouse gases.


The production of electric vehicles produces more greenhouse gases than the production of cars with combustion engines. So E.V.s have to travel between 28,000 and 68,000 miles before they have an emissions advantage over similarly sized and equipped ICE-mobiles, according to Nunes. That may take 10 years or more if the E.V. isn’t driven much.


Then there’s the problem of where to get all the minerals. Domestic production, even combined with extensive recycling, can’t meet the need for cobalt, graphite, lithium and manganese, Nunes wrote in his prepared House testimony. Allies could help, but they’re also ramping up consumption. “There is, to put it bluntly, only so much mineral supply to go around,” he wrote. Lithium iron phosphate is a promising alternative battery chemistry, but its energy density is lower, so batteries would have to be even bigger to give the same range. (Sodium-ion batteries and solid-state lithium-ion batteries are other options.)


The Biden administration clearly doesn’t trust electric vehicles to win over the buying public purely on their merits. That’s why in April the Environmental Protection Agency proposed new rules to ensure that two-thirds of new passenger cars and a quarter of new heavy trucks sold in the United States are all-electric by 2032.


That would be a wrenching change. It sometimes seems like E.V.s are everywhere, but in reality they accounted for just 5.8 percent of new cars sold in the United States last year, The Times reported. All-electric trucks accounted for less than 2 percent of new heavy trucks.


Of course, drivers could be bribed into buying E.V.s if enough money were thrust in their faces. But Nunes said that greenhouse gas emissions can be reduced far more cost-effectively through subsidies of clean power generation, particularly wind turbines.


For another perspective, I exchanged emails with Nafisa Lohawala, a Ph.D. economist who is a fellow at Resources for the Future, a think tank. She focused on the benefits of plug-in hybrids, which use less metal than all-electric E.V.s but more than non-pluggable hybrids. “From consumers’ perspective,” she wrote, “having a gasoline backup helps alleviate range anxiety, allowing them to adopt plug-in hybrids even when the charging network around them is sparse. Moreover, given their lower price, middle- and low-income communities would also find adopting them easier than battery electric vehicles.”


Lohawala wrote that if drivers recharge their plug-in hybrids frequently, they’ll be able to run on battery power almost all the time and emissions will be almost as low as with an all-electric E.V.  That will tend to happen as more charging stations with faster chargers are installed. “As long as the battery ranges of plug-in hybrids are reasonably long and the electricity prices are low, consumers would voluntarily charge them rather than relying on gasoline,” she wrote.


Again, I get that climate change is an existential crisis. (Take it from my Opinion colleague, David Wallace-Wells.) I also get that hybrids aren’t as clean as all-electric E.V.s. “The fact is: A hybrid today is not green technology,” Katherine García, the director of the Clean Transportation for All Campaign, wrote last year. “The Prius hybrid runs on a pollution-emitting combustion engine found in any gas-powered car.”


However, getting to the destination of all-electric for all will take more minerals, better battery chemistry and more and better chargers, among other things. That’s a big project. For now, hybrids seem like a valuable part of the vehicle mix.



7) Man Shot Dead by Police After a Report of Stolen Fruit

A New Rochelle, N.Y., police officer shot Jarrell Garris, 37, after he was accused of eating some grapes and a banana without paying, his family’s lawyer said. The police said he tried to grab an officer’s gun.

By Erin Nolan, Published July 13, 2023, Updated July 14, 2023


Raymond Fowler comforts his daughter, Tiana Fowler, putting his arm around her.

Raymond Fowler, the father of Jarrell Garris, comforts his daughter Tiana Fowler after Mr. Garris was shot. Credit...Seth Harrison/USA Today Network

Jarrell Garris wears a black shirt and a gray Yankees baseball cap.

Jarrell Garris was shot on July 3 in New Rochelle, N.Y., where he was born and raised. Credit...William Wagstaff

It’s impossible for Raymond Fowler to explain how it felt to learn a police officer shot his only son after he was accused of taking a few dollars’ worth of fruit, he said.


“Words can’t describe the moment when I heard what happened,” Mr. Fowler said. “Even now as we speak, it’s like I’m in a cloud. This is a very difficult challenge for me.”


Mr. Fowler’s son, Jarrell Garris, 37, was shot by the police on July 3 in New Rochelle, N.Y., a suburb of New York City, after a report of theft from a local grocery store, officials said. He was accused of eating a few grapes and a banana and leaving without paying, the lawyer representing Mr. Garris’s family said.


The New Rochelle Police Department said Mr. Garris was shot when he tried to grab a gun from an officer’s holster. It released body camera footage that shows the events leading up to the shooting but cuts off before it takes place.


Mr. Garris died in the hospital a week later, according to the state attorney general’s office, which is investigating the shooting. The office investigates all incidents in which a police officer causes a death.


“It just makes no sense,” Mr. Fowler said, noting that his son had lived in the tight-knit community of New Rochelle for more than 30 years and was known by several members of the police department. He added that he “absolutely” believed that racial bias contributed to the death of his son, who was Black.


The Police Department said that the body camera video it released was truncated out of respect for Mr. Garris’s family. But the family is leading a chorus of calls from the community demanding the release of the remaining footage.


“The city of New Rochelle claimed they released those videos to be transparent, but why wouldn’t you release the full video?” said William Wagstaff, a lawyer representing Mr. Garris’s family.


Noam Bramson, the mayor of New Rochelle, welcomed the state investigation in a statement on Wednesday and said the city had no objection to the release of full body camera footage if the attorney general, Letitia James, judged that to be appropriate.


“This tragic incident raises a range of questions and concerns, many of which cannot be addressed until the A.G.’s investigation is completed,” the mayor said in the statement.


Mr. Garris, a New Rochelle native who more recently moved to Greensboro, N.C., was in town because he planned to pick up his 11-year-old son from the boy’s mother’s house and bring him home for the summer, said Mr. Fowler, 58, who now lives in Raleigh, N.C.


Just before 4:30 p.m. on July 3, someone who worked at the grocery store, New Rochelle Farms, called the police and said a man had stolen some fruit, according to a statement from the State Police and Mr. Wagstaff. Attempts to reach the grocery store were unsuccessful.


Officers Kari Bird and Gabrielle Chavarry and Detective Steven Conn responded, the statement said.


Officers Bird and Chavarry were the first to approach Mr. Garris on a street near the grocery store, body camera footage shows.


“We just had a call that you were in the store and you ate some items. Is that true, not true?” one of the officers asks.


Mr. Garris does not respond and starts to walk away, the footage shows.


Detective Conn arrives as Mr. Garris is crossing the street, and when one of the other officers says that the grocery store plans to press charges, he tells Mr. Garris that he is under arrest.


“What?” Mr. Garris asks as Detective Conn begins to handcuff him.


Mr. Garris becomes visibly distressed, and the video shows him and the officers beginning to struggle.


At one point, one of the two officers who arrived first is heard saying, “Stop, Steve.”


Detective Conn shouts, “He’s got a gun,” and Mr. Garris extends his arm, but it is difficult to determine what he is reaching for. Then the video ends.


The police have not said that a gun was found on the scene, and Mr. Garris’s father has said that he was unarmed.


The State Police confirmed that Detective Conn fired a shot that hit Mr. Garris. Mr. Wagstaff said Mr. Garris was shot in the neck.


He was taken to Westchester Medical Center, where he remained in critical condition for a week, the police said, before he died on July 10.


The three officers have been placed on administrative leave, a city spokeswoman said.


During a City Council meeting on Tuesday, community members expressed outrage over the shooting.


Dan Miller, a doctor who lives in New Rochelle, said during the meeting that he frequently samples produce at grocery stores.


“No one accosts me in the street. No one threatens my life and nobody shoots me,” Mr. Miller, who is white, said. “I think we know why.”


Aisha Cook, the president of the New Rochelle branch of the N.A.A.C.P., called for the release of the full body camera footage and a thorough investigation.


“Food insecurity is not a death sentence,” she said. “The police are not here to kill. They are not judge, jury and executioner.”


Mr. Fowler, who like his son grew up in New Rochelle, said Mr. Garris had been diagnosed with schizophrenia but had been taking medication with few issues. He said his son had been doing well in recent years, and that he had a full-time job as a caretaker for older people and lived with a girlfriend.


He said certain officers knew of his son’s diagnosis because he had called the department in the past to ask officers to check on him. He questioned why responding officers didn’t request help from mental health services on July 3.


Representative Jamaal Bowman, a Democrat who lives in Yonkers and represents New Rochelle, said that the shooting reflected a long history of tension between the police and Black residents of Westchester County and across the country.


“This is not something that is confined to New Rochelle. Relationships between law enforcement and the African American community have been challenging for a number of decades for a variety of reasons,” Representative Bowman said.


New Rochelle has a population of just over 82,000, and roughly 20 percent of residents are Black, while about 58 percent are white.


He said the killing showed a systemic failure to help people who struggle with mental health. “Too many of us have this idea that some people are beyond saving, and that’s just not true,” he said.


New Rochelle Against Racism, a local activist group, said in a statement that the local police would “need deep, transformational change if the Black community is to feel safe, protected and respected, rather than monitored, controlled and attacked.”


The group also compared Mr. Garris’s death to the fatal shooting of another Black man, Kamal Flowers, who was killed by a New Rochelle police officer in 2020 after he fled the scene of a traffic stop and displayed a handgun, according to the police. A Westchester grand jury declined to indict the officer, Alec McKeanna.


To Mr. Fowler, Mr. Garris will always be the 8-month-old baby who grabbed a pair of his father’s sneakers by the laces and used them to get his balance as he took his first steps. He will always be the teenager who neighbors called “CeeTwo,” the same nickname his father was given when he was 17. And he will always be the loving father who enjoyed learning about Black history and rooting for the Los Angeles Rams and the New York Knicks.


“If you had the opportunity to meet my son, you had no choice but to love him,” Mr. Fowler said.


Susan C. Beachy contributed research.



8) More Mothers Are Dying. It Doesn’t Have to Be This Way.

By Veronica Gillispie-Bell, July 16, 2023

Dr. Veronica Gillispie-Bell is an OB-GYN and associate professor for Ochsner Health in New Orleans.


An illustration with a pixelated black and white photo of an expectant mother, seen from the side, around which are scattered beautiful red poppies.

Illustration by Akshita Chandra/The New York Times; Images by The New York Public Library, British Library/Unsplash; and PictureNet/Getty Images

After Tori Bowie, an elite athlete, died in May, the reality of the health risk to Black women posed by childbirth was once again in the spotlight. The maternal mortality rate for Black women in America is, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2.6 times that for white women.


Now a recently published study in the medical journal JAMA has revealed that the U.S. maternal mortality rate — already the highest among peer nations — has increased for all racial and ethnic groups. Maternal outcomes in the United States are a public health crisis, and they are only getting worse. We know the data. We need to focus on the solutions.


As a practicing OB-GYN and medical director of Louisiana’s Maternal Mortality Review Committee, I understand not only the problem, but also the solutions. To ease the U.S. maternal health crisis, we must improve systems of care, improve clinical quality of care and address social determinants of health. In the United States, we have a health care system that does not serve all populations equitably. Black women are more likely to bear the brunt of structural factors that limit access to care in the form of transportation, child care and economic stability. Even when Black women are able to access health care, we are not always provided the same quality of care as our white counterparts. But there are pathways to improvement.


Some of the increase in the rate of maternal deaths can be attributed to changes in data collection. The addition of a “pregnancy check box” to the U.S. Standard Certificate of Death in 2003 led to better detection of maternal deaths that otherwise might have been missed, although it may have also introduced some overcounting, according to a C.D.C. report. But this does not account for the disproportionate maternal deaths experienced by Black, American Indian and Alaska Native mothers.


The United States spends a larger portion of its gross domestic product on health care than any other high-income country, yet our infant and maternal health outcomes are among the worst. We continue to invest in a system that is broken.


Because the United States is the only wealthy country that does not guarantee health coverage, many patients come into pregnancy with chronic medical conditions that have not been diagnosed or managed before pregnancy, including hypertension, diabetes and heart conditions. Among the leading causes of pregnancy-related deaths between 2017 and 2019 were cardiovascular conditions.


In 2021, 41 percent of births in the United States were financed by Medicaid, with rates ranging from 21 percent in Utah to 61 percent in Louisiana. However, in many states, insurance coverage under Medicaid ends 60 days after birth, leaving mothers uninsured and with no access to care. Fifty-three percent of maternal deaths occur between seven days and one year postpartum, demonstrating that the period to intervene to prevent deaths extends at least a year, and maybe longer. Under federal law, states have the option to extend Medicaid to one year postpartum. As of this month, 36 states have enacted the extension. Extension of Medicaid to one year ensures insurance coverage to address those chronic illnesses, such as cardiovascular conditions and diabetes, that increase the risk of maternal death.


Insurance coverage is only one piece of the puzzle. We must also address the physician shortage in the United States, specifically the shortage of OB-GYNs. The Bureau of Health Workforce estimates that by 2030, there will be a demand for 52,660 OB-GYNs but a supply of only 47,490, leaving a deficit of 5,170 physicians, with the impact worst in the West and the South.


Those numbers most likely underestimate the decrease; 40 to 75 percent of OB-GYNs report some form of professional burnout from patient load, malpractice litigation and other demands on time. According to the March of Dimes, 2.2 million women of childbearing age live in a maternity care desert — an area with virtually no access to birth centers or obstetric providers.


To address this shortage, we must incorporate midwives into obstetric care. Midwives are trained health care providers equipped to give prenatal care and deliver infants, allowing obstetricians to focus their care on patients who are at higher risk for morbidity and mortality. When midwives are involved in obstetric care, patients have lower C-section rates and decreased rates of preterm birth. However, among high-income countries, the United States has some of the lowest rates of midwives per 1,000 live births.


As an OB-GYN who has been practicing for 15 years, the way I was trained to treat many conditions, including hypertensive disorders of pregnancy, is no longer recommended. Doctors and other providers are not always aware of these changes. Much like the general population, pregnant women and new mothers need medical care that is evidence-based to ensure good health outcomes.


The Alliance for Innovation on Maternal Health, or AIM, is a quality improvement initiative designed to put in place and support best practices to reduce maternal morbidity and mortality. AIM in combination with state-based perinatal quality collaboratives, or P.Q.C.s, use patient safety bundles — evidence-based practices to ensure readiness, response and recognition for some of the leading causes of maternal morbidity and mortality — to ensure hospitals and providers are giving quality care. Through P.Q.C.s, states have seen fewer severe complications from hypertension and hemorrhaging and reduced rates of unnecessary C-sections. As of May, at least 27 states had C.D.C.-funded P.Q.C.s, and all states except Wyoming are enrolled in AIM. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has created the “birthing friendly” designation for hospitals participating in structured quality improvement programs and establishing patient safety bundles. To improve clinical quality of care, all birthing facilities should work to receive this designation.


Maternal outcomes are not determined by health care alone. What we call social determinants of health — where we live, work and play — also affect health outcomes. Social factors affect about half of health outcomes. When we think about maternal mortality, we should also look to economic stability, education access, health care access, neighborhood and the built environment and community.


Generations of racial residential segregation supported by unfair lending practices for home buying have perpetuated inequities for Black Americans. In minority neighborhoods, there is less access to health care and there are food deserts and environmental factors such as factories that have been linked to various negative health outcomes, including preterm births. Add to this decreased access to transportation, which leaves these mothers and families further removed from care.


Social determinants of health also play a critical role in the year after birth. A report from the Commonwealth Fund comparing maternal care in 11 wealthy countries found that the United States is the only one that does not guarantee home visits in the postpartum period. Ours is also the only high-income country that does not ensure paid maternity leave.


Social determinants of health contribute to the disparities we see, but they are not the only factor. A Black woman with a college degree is 1.6 times as likely to die as a result of pregnancy or childbirth as a white woman with less than a high school diploma. Even when we adjust for socioeconomic factors, Black women still suffer. We know of countless accounts, including my own, of Black women presenting for medical care and being ignored.


Why do we ignore the voices of Black women? Unconsciously, we in the medical field have developed biased beliefs about Black women based on stereotypes. There is a biased belief that Black women are overly loud and demanding and that we can take more pain than our white counterparts. A study has shown that some medical residents believe that Black people have thicker skin, and therefore do not feel pain in the same way as other racial groups. In the same study, participants who endorsed such false beliefs were less likely to prescribe appropriate pain medicine. Such biases create inequities in health care delivery.


We know the problems driving the maternal health crisis, and we know what we could be doing to improve the situation. No mother should ever go into childbirth fearful that the cost of bringing in a life will be the loss of her own.



1) We Are All Background Actors

Why should you care about the strikes in Hollywood? Because they are much more than a revolt of the privileged.

By James Poniewozik, July 16, 2023


A group of people carrying signs walk in a picket line.

On Friday, actors joined Hollywood writers on the picket line outside Netflix’s Los Angeles office as SAG-AFTRA went on strike. Credit...Jenna Schoenefeld for The New York Times

In Hollywood, the cool kids have joined the picket line.


I mean no offense, as a writer, to the screenwriters who have been on strike against film and TV studios for over two months. But writers know the score. We’re the words, not the faces. The cleverest picket sign joke is no match for the attention-focusing power of Margot Robbie or Matt Damon.


SAG-AFTRA, the union representing TV and film actors, joined the writers in a walkout over how Hollywood divvies up the cash in the streaming era and how humans can thrive in the artificial-intelligence era. With that star power comes an easy cheap shot: Why should anybody care about a bunch of privileged elites whining about a dream job?


But for all the focus that a few boldface names will get in this strike, I invite you to consider a term that has come up a lot in the current negotiations: “Background actors.”


You probably don’t think much about background actors. You’re not meant to, hence the name. They’re the nonspeaking figures who populate the screen’s margins, making Gotham City or King’s Landing or the beaches of Normandy feel real, full and lived-in.


And you might have more in common with them than you think.


The lower-paid actors who make up the vast bulk of the profession are facing simple dollars-and-cents threats to their livelihoods. They’re trying to maintain their income amid the vanishing of residual payments, as streaming has shortened TV seasons and decimated the syndication model. They’re seeking guardrails against A.I. encroaching on their jobs.


There’s also a particular, chilling question on the table: Who owns a performer’s face? Background actors are seeking protections and better compensation in the practice of scanning their images for digital reuse.


In a news conference about the strike, a union negotiator said that the studios were seeking the rights to scan and use an actor’s image “for the rest of eternity” in exchange for one day’s pay. The studios argue that they are offering “groundbreaking” protections against the misuse of actors’ images, and counter that their proposal would only allow a company to use the “digital replica” on the specific project a background actor was hired for.


Still, the long-term “Black Mirror” implications — the practice was the actual premise of a recent episode — are unignorable. If a digital replica of you — without your bothersome need for money and the time to lead a life — can do the job, who needs you?


You could, I guess, make the argument that if someone is insignificant enough to be replaced by software, then they’re in the wrong business. But background work and small roles are precisely the routes to someday promoting your blockbuster on the red carpet. And many talented artists build entire careers around a series of small jobs. (Pamela Adlon’s series “Better Things” is a great portrait of the life of ordinary working actors.)


In the end, Hollywood’s fight isn’t far removed from the threats to many of us in today’s economy. “We are all going to be in jeopardy of being replaced by machines,” Fran Drescher, the actors’ guild president, said in announcing the strike.


You and I may be the protagonists of our own narratives, but in the grand scheme most of us are background players. We face the same risk — that every time a technological or cultural shift happens, companies will rewrite the terms of employment to their advantage, citing financial pressures while paying their top executives tens and hundreds of millions.


Maybe it’s unfair that exploitation gets more attention when it involves a union that Meryl Streep belongs to. (If the looming UPS strike materializes, it might grab the spotlight for blue-collar labor.) And there’s certainly a legitimate critique of white-collar workers who were blasé about automation until A.I. threatened their own jobs.


But work is work, and some dynamics are universal. As the entertainment reporter and critic Maureen Ryan writes in “Burn It Down,” her investigation of workplace abuses throughout Hollywood, “It is not the inclination nor the habit of the most important entities in the commercial entertainment industry to value the people who make their products.”


If you don’t believe Ryan, listen to the anonymous studio executive, speaking of the writers’ strike, who told the trade publication Deadline, “The endgame is to allow things to drag out until union members start losing their apartments and losing their houses.”


You may think of Hollywood creatives as a privileged class, but if their employers think about them like this, are you sure yours thinks any differently of you? Most of us, in Hollywood or outside it, are facing a common question: Can we have a working world in which you can survive without being a star?


You may never notice background actors if they’re doing their jobs well. Yet they’re the difference between a sterile scene and a living one. They create the impression that, beyond the close focus on the beautiful leads, there is a full, complete universe, whether it’s the galaxy of the “Star Wars” franchise or the mundane reality that you and I live in.


They are there to say that we, too, are out here, that we make the world a world, that we at least deserve our tiny places in the corner of the screen.



2) The Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer

By Kai Bird, July 17, 2023

Mr. Bird is the director of the Leon Levy Center for Biography and co-author with the late Martin J. Sherwin of “American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer.”

Robert Oppenheimer sitting at a table, speaking before a group of microphones.
Associated Press

One day in the spring of 1954, J. Robert Oppenheimer ran into Albert Einstein outside their offices at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, N.J. Oppenheimer had been the director of the Institute since 1947 and Einstein a faculty member since he fled Germany in 1933. The two men might argue about quantum physics — Einstein grumbled that he just didn’t think that God played dice with the universe — but they were good friends.


Oppenheimer took the occasion to explain to Einstein that he was going to be absent from the Institute for some weeks. He was being forced to defend himself in Washington, D.C., during a secret hearing against charges that he was a security risk, and perhaps even disloyal. Einstein argued that Oppenheimer “had no obligation to subject himself to the witch-hunt, that he had served his country well, and that if this was the reward she [America] offered he should turn his back on her.” Oppenheimer demurred, saying he could not turn his back on America. “He loved America,” said Verna Hobson, his secretary who was a witness to the conversation, “and this love was as deep as his love of science.”


“Einstein doesn’t understand,” Oppenheimer told Ms. Hobson. But as Einstein walked back into his office he told his assistant, nodding in the direction of Oppenheimer, “There goes a narr [fool].”


Einstein was right. Oppenheimer was foolishly subjecting himself to a kangaroo court in which he was soon stripped of his security clearance and publicly humiliated. The charges were flimsy, but by a vote of 2 to 1 the security panel of the Atomic Energy Commission deemed Oppenheimer a loyal citizen who was nevertheless a security risk: “We find that Dr. Oppenheimer’s continuing conduct and association have reflected a serious disregard for the requirements of the security system.” The scientist would no longer be trusted with the nation’s secrets. Celebrated in 1945 as the “father of the atomic bomb,” nine years later he would become the chief celebrity victim of the McCarthyite maelstrom.


Oppenheimer may have been naïve, but he was right to fight the charges — and right to use his influence as one of the country’s pre-eminent scientists to speak out against a nuclear arms race. In the months and years leading up to the security hearing, Oppenheimer had criticized the decision to build a “super” hydrogen bomb. Astonishingly, he had gone so far as to say that the Hiroshima bomb was used “against an essentially defeated enemy.” The atomic bomb, he warned, “is a weapon for aggressors, and the elements of surprise and terror are as intrinsic to it as are the fissionable nuclei.” These forthright dissents against the prevailing view of Washington’s national security establishment earned him powerful political enemies. That was precisely why he was being charged with disloyalty.


It is my hope that Christopher Nolan’s stunning new film on Oppenheimer’s complicated legacy will initiate a national conversation not only about our existential relationship to weapons of mass destruction, but also the need in our society for scientists as public intellectuals. Mr. Nolan’s three-hour film is a riveting thriller and mystery story that delves deeply into what this country did to its most famous scientist.


Sadly, Oppenheimer’s life story is relevant to our current political predicaments. Oppenheimer was destroyed by a political movement characterized by rank know-nothing, anti-intellectual, xenophobic demagogues. The witch-hunters of that season are the direct ancestors of our current political actors of a certain paranoid style. I’m thinking of Roy Cohn, Senator Joseph McCarthy’s chief counsel, who tried to subpoena Oppenheimer in 1954, only to be warned that this could interfere with the impending security hearing against Oppenheimer. Yes, that Roy Cohn, who taught former President Donald Trump his brash, wholly deranged style of politics. Just recall the former president’s fact-challenged comments on the pandemic or climate change. This is a worldview proudly scornful of science.


After America’s most celebrated scientist was falsely accused and publicly humiliated, the Oppenheimer case sent a warning to all scientists not to stand up in the political arena as public intellectuals. This was the real tragedy of Oppenheimer. What happened to him also damaged our ability as a society to debate honestly about scientific theory — the very foundation of our modern world.


Quantum physics has utterly transformed our understanding of the universe. And this science has also given us a revolution in computing power and incredible biomedical innovations to prolong human life. Yet, too many of our citizens still distrust scientists and fail to understand the scientific quest, the trial and error inherent in testing any theory against facts by experimenting. Just look at what happened to our public health civil servants during the recent pandemic.


We stand on the cusp of yet another technological revolution in which artificial intelligence will transform how we live and work, and yet we are not yet having the kind of informed civil discourse with its innovators that could help us to make wise policy decisions on its regulation. Our politicians need to listen more to technology innovators like Sam Altman and quantum physicists like Kip Thorne and Michio Kaku.


Oppenheimer was trying desperately to have that kind of conversation about nuclear weapons. He was trying to warn our generals that these are not battlefield weapons, but weapons of pure terror. But our politicians chose to silence him; the result was that we spent the Cold War engaged in a costly and dangerous arms race.


Today, Vladimir Putin’s not-so-veiled threats to deploy tactical nuclear weapons in the war in Ukraine are a stark reminder that we can never be complacent about living with nuclear weapons. Oppenheimer did not regret what he did at Los Alamos; he understood that you cannot stop curious human beings from discovering the physical world around them. One cannot halt the scientific quest, nor can one un-invent the atomic bomb. But Oppenheimer always believed that human beings could learn to regulate these technologies and integrate them into a sustainable and humane civilization. We can only hope he was right.



3) I Am Being Pushed Out of One of the Last Public Squares, the Library

By Emily St. James, July 17, 2023

Ms. St. James is the author of the upcoming novel “Woodworking.”


A stack of brightly colored books labeled “Queer” is surrounded by flames.

Henri Campeã

As far as my childhood self was concerned, the Carnegie Library in my tiny South Dakota hometown was the best place on earth. Once every week, I climbed its stairs and entered a space that smelled of mildew and oak.


Two large rooms stretched off to either side of the librarian’s desk, each subdivided into smaller spaces by old, wooden shelves. A small table bore videotapes and books from the state library in Pierre, titles that our perpetually underfunded library could not afford to add to its collection but wanted to make available anyway.


I grew up in a very white, very rural world, and the library let me know other lives were possible. There, I encountered books by authors like Ralph Ellison and Maya Angelou, which spoke of a world I had yet to encounter. Just reading the back cover of something like Oscar Hijuelos’s “The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love” served as a reminder that there were other ways to live than my own.


I was also a queer girl who lacked the language to explain the feelings I had deep inside of me. Yet at the library, I encountered some of the first people who seemed at all like me, people written about as political activists in magazines like Time and Newsweek, as supporting characters in the occasional sci-fi novel the friendly librarian pressed on me, as curiosities in certain books containing anecdotes about, say, Christine Jorgensen, a World War II veteran and trans woman whose transition in the early 1950s caused a media sensation.


Maybe you had a similar space in your own youth, one that still looms large in the memory. Increasingly, however, libraries, mostly in exurban and rural communities like the one where I grew up, are encountering some of the harshest resistance they’ve ever faced, usually centered on books about queer identities or America’s long history of racism. Books targeted for censorship in America’s libraries in 2022 were up nearly 40 percent over 2021, with 41 percent of challenged books involving L.G.B.T.Q. identities, according to the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom.


The library in Vinton, Iowa, found itself without any staff after librarians were reportedly harassed because some of its books were about queer identities and prominent Democrats and because some of the librarians were queer. The Patmos Library in Ottawa County, Mich., stands to lose funding in 2024 after a campaign driven by the presence of a handful of books on queer identities in the collection.


The situation in Vinton may prove instructive. There, a handful of residents of the town were angry about the presence of books by Jill Biden and Kamala Harris, which fueled anger over other books in the collection. Janette McMahon, who was the library director at the time (she has since left), told me last summer that one book that drew consternation in particular was “Sometimes People March,” a children’s book that refers to Black Lives Matter and Pride.


What she was struck by in Vinton — and has continued to be struck by as this movement to remove materials from libraries spreads — was how people who objected to these books did not follow the normal process. Rather than requesting librarian review, patrons would issue those challenges to library boards or even political leaders in charge of library funding.


“That seems to be the winning side right now, if you have to pick who’s coming out ahead,” she told me. “You see books being pulled or staff losing their positions over standing up for the materials that are in their facilities. I unfortunately don’t see that stopping right now.”


The people raising objections may not even have read the books in question. Instead, they can rely on lists of potential targets that have been posted online. The story will play out slightly differently in every community, but it often starts in the same place.


“A small group of really strong-voiced people can make a lot of people very miserable,” Ms. McMahon said.


Even more libraries, especially school libraries, are facing what journalist Kelly Jensen has called “quiet censorship,” in which books are not entirely banished, but removed from display, available only to those who know to ask (and, in the case of minors, those who have parental permission).


The library’s predominant role in our culture is to provide a place to find the information or art you are seeking. But it has another role that’s equally important: a place where everyone is welcome.


When you step inside a library, you are confronted with a wealth of information some other people have curated for you, just by being there.


In theory, that space is curated for everyone in your community. Your local librarians use the physical space of the library to create a wide-ranging series of recommendations and possible reads, and in the best-case scenario, the books they choose to highlight encompass the widest possible definition of who belongs in your community. The library offers a quiet place to explore a new hobby, research a new interest, get invested in a new novel series, or finally find the words that help you explain yourself to yourself.


The internet age should have made finding those words easier, but in practice, it has proved surprisingly limiting as a tool to discover new ideas and possible selves. The initial promise of the internet was that it would bring the entire world to your home, but in the algorithm era, a number of corporations have taken that endless possibility and narrowed it down considerably. There is no attempt to get you to think about others, not really. There is, instead, an attempt to just keep you consuming, usually by serving up things the algorithm is pretty sure you already like.


In an age dominated by algorithms, going to a good library feels a little like replenishing your brain with the variety of all that is available to you in the world. That might serve as a saving grace in a time when so many of us long for that decompression, at least a little bit.


That very quality of libraries is what’s under attack. What might undo libraries is an insistence that they should reflect only one view of reality, one that has little room for queer people in particular. Thus, when right-wing complainants issue grievances about books featuring queer characters or programs like drag queen story hour, it’s not hard to see these pushes as part of a larger movement to limit or turn back the gains queer people have made in visibility over the last two decades. If the library is one of the last remaining pieces of our public square, then pushing queer people out of it (or into a quiet, unmentioned closet only the librarian can access) is, in effect, an attempt to push us out of public life.


In an era when you can tell an algorithm not to show you something, it’s tempting to imagine continuing to cordon off the public square into 335 million carefully curated walled gardens of the self, an individualized America for every single person. But without public spaces where you can encounter new ideas, even by simply seeing the titles of books you might never read, you can never realize if the garden you’re in is the one you want to be in. The library is worth defending not just because it’s important to our society as a whole. It’s important because it helps us understand lives we believe to be unlike ours, understanding that can help us unlock our most empathetic and authentic selves.



4) Riots in France Highlight a Vicious Cycle Between Police and Minorities

Calls to overhaul the police go back decades. But violent episodes of police enforcement continue. So do violent outpourings on the street.

By Catherine Porter and Constant Méheut, July 17, 2023

“‘It seems that one of the most important tasks of the police is to protect the police,’”… A 2017 investigation by the country’s civil liberties ombudsman found that ‘young men perceived to be Black or Arab’ were 20 times more likely to be checked by the police than the rest of the population. French courts have faulted the government twice for discriminatory police checks.”

A black and white photograph showing a huge crowd of young people marching.
Protesters arriving in Paris in December 1983 after marching from Marseilles. Credit...Dominique Faget/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Years before France was inflamed with anger at the police killing of a teenager during a traffic stop, there was the notorious Théo Luhaka case.


Mr. Luhaka, 22, a Black soccer player, was cutting through a known drug-dealing zone in his housing project in a Paris suburb in 2017 when the police swept in to conduct identity checks.


Mr. Luhaka was wrestled to the ground by three police officers, who hit him repeatedly and sprayed tear gas in his face. When it was over, he was bleeding from a four-inch tear in his rectum, caused by one of the officers’ expandable batons.


Mr. Luhaka’s housing project, and others around Paris, erupted in fury. He was held up as a symbol of what activists had been denouncing for years: discriminatory policing that violently targets minority youth, particularly in France’s poor areas.


And there was a sense that, this time, something would change. President François Hollande visited Mr. Luhaka in the hospital. Emmanuel Macron, then a presidential candidate in an election he would win months later, pledged to transform the country’s centralized police system into one more tailored to neighborhoods, so that police officers could recognize locals and “rebuild trust.”


That never happened. Instead, the relationship between the country’s minority populations and its heavy-handed police force worsened, many experts say, as evident in the tumultuous aftermath of the killing in late June of Nahel Merzouk, 17, a French citizen of Algerian and Moroccan descent.


After multiple violent, publicized encounters involving the police, a pattern emerged: Each episode led to an outburst of rage and demands for change, followed by a pushback from increasingly powerful police unions and dismissals from the government.


“It’s a repeating cycle, unfortunately,” said Lanna Hollo, a human rights lawyer in Paris who has worked on policing issues for 15 years. “What characterizes France is denial. There is a total denial that there is a structural, systemic problem in the police.”


Calls to overhaul the police go back at least four decades to when thousands of young people of color marched for months in 1983 from Marseille to Paris, over 400 miles, after an officer shot a young community leader of Algerian descent.


Chanting slogans like “the hunt is over,” the marchers demanded changes to police practices that never came. The number of fatal encounters continued to climb.


France is one of the few Western democracies to have a centralized, national police force that answers directly to the interior minister, often referred to as “France’s top cop.” Its 150,000 members are organized in a top-down structure, with a reputation for brutal enforcement methods.


“In France, the police are increasingly at the service of the government, not the citizens,” said Christian Mouhanna, a French sociologist who studies the police.


In the late 1990s, the French government tried to introduce community policing.


The goal was to “regain a foothold in the suburbs by means other than repression” and build a rapport with locals to prevent crime, said Yves Lefebvre, a police union leader who recalled organizing soccer games between residents and officers.


But the new approach was dropped after only a few years. “Organizing a rugby game for the youth in a neighborhood is good, but it’s not the police’s primary mission,” Nicolas Sarkozy, then France’s interior minister, said in 2003. “​​The primary mission of the police? Investigations, arrests and the fight against crime.”


Mr. Sarkozy then introduced a “policy of numbers,” with officers expected to make a certain number of arrests.


Less than three years later, the suburbs erupted again after the deaths of two teenagers fleeing a police check, in what many saw as a direct consequence of the policy shift. The violent protests prompted the authorities to invest billions in revitalizing the country’s poor suburbs.

But they also fueled calls for more and tougher law enforcement.


“The analysis of the police and interior minister was that if the police had been greater in number, more mobile and better armed, there would not have been riots,” said Sebastian Roché, a policing expert at the country’s National Center for Scientific Research.


Since then, France has passed new laws toughening penalties and expanding police powers almost every year. It extended the use of certain weapons that fire rubber bullets the size of golf balls, which have caused dozens of mutilations and are banned in most European countries.


Fabien Jobard, a political scientist specializing in the police, said this “legislative inflation” was partly aimed at further protecting the police and limiting their accountability.


“It seems that one of the most important tasks of the police is to protect the police,” he said.


The new objectives of tough policing fueled an increase in identity checks, which studies have shown are not effective in identifying criminals and disproportionately target minority youth.


A 2017 investigation by the country’s civil liberties ombudsman found that “young men perceived to be Black or Arab” were 20 times more likely to be checked by the police than the rest of the population. French courts have faulted the government twice for discriminatory police checks.


“They are the backward version of community policing,” Ms. Hollo said.


Éric Henry, the spokesman for Alliance, a major French police union, denied that identity checks were carried out in a discriminatory manner and said that officers were sticking to a legal framework that allows checks of people suspected of criminal activity.


Mr. Henry said the deterioration of the relations between the police and suburban residents stemmed from a rise in crime and a justice system that is not tough enough. “We need to reassert the authority of the state,” he said, calling for the introduction of mandatory minimum sentences for those who attack officers. French authorities said that 800 police officers had been injured in the recent riots.


In the case of Mr. Luhaka, the aftermath of his violent arrest followed a well-worn French playbook. Youths from the neighborhood in Aulnay-sous-Bois, a suburb 30 minutes northeast of Paris, protested by setting cars on fire. His neighbors wore T-shirts emblazoned with “Justice for Théo” and organized a march.


The suburb’s mayor, Bruno Beschizza, a former police officer and union spokesman, said he was shocked and called for building trust between the police and residents. A community group held open discussions and demanded regular sporting events with locals and officers and an end to arrest quotas, among other things.


“Nothing happened,” said Hadama Traoré, a local activist who defined himself as a revolutionary and led the meetings. He was later convicted of threatening the mayor.


Instead, the municipal police force has grown exponentially, becoming the biggest in the area, with 84 officers — four times that of the nearby, more populated Aubervilliers.


Traditionally, the municipal police play an administrative role, handing out parking tickets and traffic fines. In many cities, like Paris, they are unarmed. But in Aulnay-sous-Bois, they are equipped with 9-millimeter guns, tasers and the weapons that fire rubber bullets the size of golf balls.


During the recent riots, more than 100 masked people attacked the municipal police station with fireworks and firebombs. CCTV cameras captured municipal police officers fighting them off with shields and rubber bullets.


Mr. Beschizza said he considered the municipal officers, who answer to him as mayor, to be community police, who often patrol by foot, get to know families and young people, and are instructed to do identity checks “with discernment.”


“I refuse to say there is systemic racism in police because today, there are lots of diverse police officers who come from their neighborhoods themselves,” Mr. Beschizza said from City Hall, where the gates and doors remained barricaded by huge, protective concrete blocks.


The federal authorities, too, have long rebutted accusations of systemic racism within the police force, calling them “totally unfounded.”


But while the Interior Ministry regularly releases statistics on crime, it has repeatedly refused to quantify police checks, let alone break them down according to the racial backgrounds of those they stopped, which is forbidden in France, a country that considers itself colorblind.


“At the same time, as we know very little about identity checks, we know lots about how many cars were burned every night, how many arrests were made, how many public buildings were vandalized,” said Magda Boutros, an assistant sociology professor at the University of Washington in Seattle who specializes in policing in France.

The result, she said, was a narrative portraying a largely white police force “as an essential tool to control out-of-control youth” in the poor suburbs “while not giving the tools that others might use to question policing practices.”


The few times the government has tried to address accusations of racist policing, it has faced an even greater obstacle: the police unions.


In recent years, during clashes with the Yellow Vest movement — a working-class revolt — as well as more recent protests opposing changes to France’s pension plan, the French government has increasingly relied on the police to control crowds.


That dependence has enabled police unions — a powerful political force elected by nearly 80 percent of all police officers — to secure regular pay increases and, more pointedly, block any change that would limit police powers, experts say.

In 2020, the unions showed the full extent of their power. As outrage over the police killing of George Floyd in the United States spread to France, Christophe Castaner, then the interior minister, proposed disciplinary action against officers suspected of racism.


In response, unions staged a protest on the Champs-Élysées and called on officers to throw down handcuffs in front of police stations across France. “The police are not racist,” said Fabien Vanhemelryck, the leader of the Alliance police union. “We’re tired of hearing that.”


Under pressure, Mr. Castaner met with union leaders, including Mr. Lefebvre, who announced that the interior minister had lost the trust of the police and could no longer represent them. A month later, Mr. Castaner was replaced.


“The president knows that an interior minister who has all the police unions against him can’t stand,” said Mr. Lefebvre, the leader of France’s second-most powerful police union alliance.


Last month, after the police shooting of Mr. Merzouk, Alliance and another police union announced that they were at war with the rioters, whom they deemed “vermins” and “savage hordes.”

Since Mr. Luhaka, now 28, had his own encounter with the police, his injury has been determined to be permanent, and he has been unable to work.


While the officers involved in his arrest received no internal disciplinary sanctions, three of them face criminal charges in a case scheduled for court in January — almost seven years later.


“This trial is super important symbolically,” said Eléonore Luhaka, Mr. Luhaka’s eldest sister. “If the trial is favorable, then it will free many more people to speak out. It will send a message that justice can also be found in poor neighborhoods.”


Juliette Guéron-Gabrielle contributed reporting from Paris and Aulnay-sous-Bois.



5) Man Who Crashed Into Teens After Doorbell Prank Gets Life in Prison

Anurag Chandra was convicted of first-degree murder and attempted murder in April after crashing his car into another vehicle, killing three teenagers and injuring three others.

By Eduardo Medina, July 16, 2023


A mangled Toyota Prius at the scene of a deadly crash, with yellow crime scene tape blocking off the area.

A Toyota Prius at the scene of a deadly crash in the Temescal Valley, south of Corona, Calif., in 2020. Credit...Watchara Phomicinda/The Orange County Register, via Associated Press

A California man who crashed into a car of six teenagers after they played a doorbell prank on him in 2020 was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole on Friday after his conviction on murder charges, officials said.


The man, Anurag Chandra, had been found guilty in April of three counts of first-degree murder and three counts of attempted murder in the crash in Riverside County, Calif. The Riverside County District Attorney’s Office argued that the crash, which killed three 16-year-old boys, was intentional.


At the sentencing by Judge Valerie Navarro, Craig Hawkins, the father of one of the victims, Daniel Hawkins, described the intense grief he has felt since his son’s death.


“Every day we sense the absence of this young man,” the elder Mr. Hawkins said of his son in court, according to a news release from prosecutors. “The hole in our hearts and lives from the taking of our son’s life is staggering.”


Michael A. Hestrin, the Riverside County district attorney, said in a statement that “the lives of countless families will never be the same because of one man’s anger, callousness and outrageous conduct, and I am grateful to Judge Navarro for imposing the maximum sentence in this case.”


David Wohl, an attorney for Mr. Chandra, said that he and his client were “disappointed” in the conviction and sentence. He said that he planned to appeal the verdict.


“While we believe that some sort of manslaughter conviction would have been appropriate, a murder conviction under these circumstances was simply erroneous,” Mr. Wohl said.


On the night of Sunday, Jan. 19, 2020, one of the boys had been dared to prank a home, the district attorney’s office said, and the six teenagers drove to Mr. Chandra’s house in Corona, about 50 miles southeast of Los Angeles.


The boy rang the doorbell and returned to the Prius they were riding in, and the group drove off.


Mr. Chandra chased them in his own vehicle, increased his speed to 99 miles per hour and rammed into the back of the Prius, “causing it to veer off the road and into a tree,” prosecutors said.


Mr. Chandra fled after the crash, the California Highway Patrol said, and was arrested after witnesses followed him and alerted the authorities.


Three boys, Daniel Hawkins, Jacob Ivascu and Drake Ruiz, were killed, the authorities said. The driver, Sergio Campusano, then 18, and two other boys, Joshua Hawkins, then 13, and Joshua Ivascu, then 14, were injured.


During the trial, Mr. Chandra testified that he had been afraid for his family’s safety after he saw a person with a hooded sweatshirt outside his home, and that he chased down the other car to verbally express his anger, The Press-Enterprise reported. He also testified that he drank 12 bottles of beer on the night of the crash, the newspaper reported.


Lauren McCarthy contributed reporting.



6) The inequality of heat: ‘If you have a proper job, you can take a break.’

By Emma Bubola, July 18, 2023


A many wearing a reflective vest rides a bicycle across a street. The sun blazes in the background.

A delivery cyclist on Monday in Milan, one of many cities in Italy that are suffering under extremely high temperatures. Credit...Camilla Ferrari for The New York Times

In one of the most extreme heat waves Europe has had this summer, executives in suits rushed from cabs into Milan’s air-conditioned offices. Tourists sipped cold mimosas under clouds of vapor at the Bar at Ralph Lauren, and the lowered roller blinds behind iron balconies testified to their owners’ departure to their holiday homes.


But below, scores of delivery riders cycled under the sun to shuttle sushi and poke bowls to office buildings. Handlers drenched in sweat unloaded the tourists’ luggage from planes on the airport’s incendiary tarmac. With their safety vests sometimes worn on bare, burned chests, laborers carried buckets of concrete along the highway that connects Milan to the seaside.


“Most of the time you have headaches because of the heat,” Naveed Khan, 39, a food delivery rider in Milan, said before he dove into the traffic. He takes painkillers every other day, he said, but he can’t stop working. “I don’t have any other job,” he said.


Mr. Khan has a wife and two children who rely on him, and on the number of his deliveries. “If you have a proper job, you can take a break in the heat,” he said. “If I take a break, what will they eat?”


Two people, a cleaner and a road worker, collapsed and later died last week as they worked in the heat, although the cause of their death has yet to be established.


Temperatures climbed to 104 degrees Fahrenheit (40 Celsius) in a large part of southern Europe in the past week, and are expected to rise even more on Tuesday and Wednesday, when many Italian cities are on high alert for the extreme heat. While much of the population has felt the scorch, the latest heat wave has also highlighted the divide between those who can afford to shelter from it and those who can’t.


“Heat waves don’t affect everybody in the same way,” said sociologist Claudia Narocki, who wrote a 2021 report about the effects of heat waves on workers’ health for the European Trade Union Institute, a research organization. “Paradoxically the most exposed jobs are paid the worst.”


Self-employed workers with no contracts are most at risk of dehydration and excessive exposure to heat, the report said, and sometimes, also the least acknowledged.


“Last year the debate was on what the temperature should be in air-conditioned offices,” Ms. Narocki said. “But there is a whole world outside the air-conditioned places.”



7) We’re Already Paying for Universal Health Care. Why Don’t We Have It?

By Liran Einav and Amy Finkelstein, July 18, 2023

Dr. Einav is a professor of economics at Stanford. Dr. Finkelstein is a professor of economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Antonio Giovanni Pinna

There is no shortage of proposals for health insurance reform, and they all miss the point. They invariably focus on the nearly 30 million Americans who lack insurance at any given time. But the coverage for the many more Americans who are fortunate enough to have insurance is deeply flawed.


Health insurance is supposed to provide financial protection against the medical costs of poor health. Yet many insured people still face the risk of enormous medical bills for their “covered” care. A team of researchers estimated that as of mid-2020, collections agencies held $140 billion in unpaid medical bills, reflecting care delivered before the Covid-19 pandemic. To put that number in perspective, that’s more than the amount held by collection agencies for all other consumer debt from nonmedical sources combined. As economists who study health insurance, what we found really shocking was our calculation that three-fifths of that debt was incurred by households with health insurance.


What’s more, in any given month, about 11 percent of Americans younger than 65 are uninsured. But more than twice that number — one in four — will be uninsured for at least some time over a two-year period. Many more face the constant danger of losing their coverage. Perversely, health insurance — the very purpose of which is to provide a measure of stability in an uncertain world — is itself highly uncertain. And while the Affordable Care Act substantially reduced the share of Americans who are uninsured at a given time, we found that it did little to reduce the risk of insurance loss among the currently insured.


It’s tempting to think that incremental reforms could address these problems. For example, extend coverage to those who lack formal insurance. Make sure all insurance plans meet some minimum standards. Change the laws so that people don’t face the risk of losing their health insurance coverage when they get sick, when they get well (yes, that can happen) or when they change jobs, give birth or move.


But those incremental reforms won’t work. Over a half-century of such well-intentioned, piecemeal policies has made clear that continuing this approach represents the triumph of hope over experience, to borrow a description of second marriages commonly attributed to Oscar Wilde.


The risk of losing coverage is an inevitable consequence of a lack of universal coverage. Whenever there are varied pathways to eligibility, there will be many people who fail to find their path.


About six in 10 uninsured Americans are eligible for free or heavily discounted insurance coverage. Yet they remain uninsured. Lack of information about which of the array of programs they are eligible for, along with the difficulties of applying and demonstrating eligibility, mean that the coverage programs are destined to deliver less than they could.


The only solution is universal coverage that is automatic, free and basic.


Automatic because when we require people to sign up, not all of them do. The experience with the health insurance mandate under the Affordable Care Act makes that clear.


Coverage needs to be free at the point of care — no co-pays or deductibles — because leaving patients on the hook for large medical costs is contrary to the purpose of insurance. A natural rejoinder is to go for small co-pays — a $5 co-pay for prescription drugs or $20 for a doctor visit — so that patients make more judicious choices about when to see a health care professional. Economists have preached the virtues of this approach for generations.


But it turns out there’s an important practical wrinkle with asking patients to pay even a very small amount for some of their universally covered care: There will always be people who can’t manage even modest co-pays. Britain, for example, introduced co-pays for prescription drugs but then also created programs to cover those co-pays for most patients — the elderly, young, students, veterans and those who are pregnant, low-income or suffering from certain diseases. All told, about 90 percent of prescriptions are exempted from the co-pays and dispensed free. The net result has been to add hassles for patients and administrative costs for the government, with little impact on the patients’ share of total health care costs or total national health care spending.


Finally, coverage must be basic because we are bound by the social contract to provide essential medical care, not a high-end experience. Those who can afford and want to can purchase supplemental coverage in a well-functioning market.


Here, an analogy to airline travel may be useful. The main function of an airplane is to move its passengers from point A to point B. Almost everyone would prefer more legroom, unlimited checked bags, free food and high-speed internet. Those who have the money and want to do so can upgrade to business class. But if our social contract were to make sure everyone could fly from A to B, a budget airline would suffice. Anyone who’s traveled on one of the low-cost airlines that have transformed airline markets in Europe knows it is not a wonderful experience. But they do get you to your destination.


Keeping universal coverage basic will keep the cost to the taxpayer down as well. It’s true that as a share of its economy, the United States spends about twice as much on health care as other high-income countries. But in most other wealthy countries, this care is primarily financed by taxes, whereas only about half of U.S. health care spending is financed by taxes. For those of you following the math, half of twice as much is … well, the same amount of taxpayer-financed spending on health care as a share of the economy. In other words, U.S. taxes are already paying for the cost of universal basic coverage. Americans are just not getting it. They could be.


We arrived at this proposal by using the approach that comes naturally to us from our economics training. We first defined the objective, namely the problem we are trying but failing to solve with our current U.S. health policy. Then we considered how best to achieve that goal.


Nonetheless, once we did this, we were struck — and humbled — to realize that at a high level, the key elements of our proposal are ones that every high-income country (and all but a few Canadian provinces) has embraced: guaranteed basic coverage and the option for people to purchase upgrades.


The lack of universal U.S. health insurance may be exceptional. The fix, it turns out, is not.



8) Mandela Goes From Hero to Scapegoat as South Africa Struggles

Nelson Mandela is revered worldwide and celebrated on July 18, his birthday. But at home, a younger generation is disillusioned with the country, his party and the anti-apartheid leader, too.

By Lynsey Chutel/Photographs by Gulshan Khan, July 18, 2023

"White South Africans still hold a disproportionate share of the nation’s land, and earn three and a half times more than Black people."


A sculpture of Mr. Mandela, with one hand raised in a wave, on the balcony of City Hall in Cape Town.

A Mandela statue at the Cape Town City Hall. Nearly two dozen statues in his image watch over a country in flux.

In South Africa, Nelson Mandela is everywhere. The country’s currency bears his smiling face, at least 32 streets are named for him and nearly two dozen statues in his image watch over a country in flux.


Every year on July 18, his birthday, South Africans celebrate Mandela Day by volunteering for 67 minutes — painting schools, knitting blankets or cleaning up city parks — in honor of the 67 years that Mr. Mandela spent serving the country as an anti-apartheid leader, much of it behind bars.


But 10 years after his death, attitudes have changed. The party Mr. Mandela led after his release from prison, the African National Congress, is in serious danger of losing its outright majority for the first time since he became president in 1994 in the first free election after the fall of apartheid. Corruption, ineptitude and elitism have tarnished the A.N.C.


Mr. Mandela’s image — which the A.N.C. has plastered across the country — has for some shifted from that of hero to scapegoat.


While Mr. Mandela is still lionized around the world, many South Africans, especially young people, believe that he did not do enough to create structural changes that would lift the fortunes of the country’s Black majority. White South Africans still hold a disproportionate share of the nation’s land, and earn three and a half times more than Black people.


To enter the courthouse in Johannesburg where he works, Ofentse Thebe passes a 20-foot sculpture of a young Mr. Mandela as a boxer. He said that he deliberately avoids looking at it, for fear of turning into “a walking ball of rage.”


“I’m not the biggest fan of Mandela,” said Mr. Thebe, 22. “There’s a lot of things that could have been negotiated for better when it came to providing freedom for all South Africans in ’94.”


One of his main gripes about the economy is the lack of jobs. The unemployment rate is 46 percent among South Africans aged 15 to 34. Millions more are underemployed, like Mr. Thebe. He studied computer science at the university level, never receiving a degree. The best job he said he could find was selling funeral policies to the staff of the court.


The maze of courtrooms, with marbled pillars and fading signs, was closed on a recent day because of a citywide water shortage. Days before, the courthouse was shut because the power was out. Blackouts across the country are routine.


Faith in the future is collapsing. Seventy percent of South Africans said in 2021 that the country is going in the wrong direction, up from 49 percent in 2010, according to the latest survey published by the country’s Human Sciences Research Council. Only 26 percent said they trusted the government, a huge decline from 2005, when it was 64 percent.


In most places, Mr. Mandela’s name is associated not with these failures, but with triumph over injustice. There are Mandela statues, streets or squares from Washington to Havana to Beijing to Nanterre, France. This week, the South African government plans to unveil yet another monument, in his ancestral home, Qunu in South Africa’s Eastern Cape Province.


But when news of the new Mandela monument came across her social media feed, Onesimo Cengimbo, a 22-year-old researcher and aspiring filmmaker, just rolled her eyes.


“Maybe the old people are still buying it, but we’re not,” Ms. Cengimbo said. “It’s actually becoming a little bit annoying that when it comes to elections, they’re not really doing anything different, they’re just showing up Mandela’s face again.”


During the tumultuous transition from apartheid, children of color were told by their families that Mr. Mandela was just one of the many leaders fighting for their freedom. But after he triumphantly emerged from prison in 1990, toured the world and led the country to democracy, he became a singular hero.


On the playground, children jumped rope and sang, “There’s a man with gray hair from far away, his name is Nelson Mandela.”


For those who got the chance to be in his presence, it left an indelible mark.


In the staff area in the basement of the Sheraton Pretoria Hotel, Selinah Papo scanned a wall of photographs of V.I.P. guests until she found a black-and-white image of Mr. Mandela in 2004.


“It was like he was golden,” said Ms. Papo, grinning. Nearly 20 years ago, she said, she was among a group of housekeepers who welcomed Mr. Mandela with a praise song in the lobby. The memory was still so vivid that she burst into song and did a little two-step dance.


Ms. Papo, 45, lived through Mr. Mandela’s heyday. She worked her way up in the hospitality industry as international hotel chains returned to South Africa. She studied via correspondence, supported her siblings through school and eventually bought a house in what was once a whites-only suburb.


Today, the strangling cost of living and rolling blackouts have dimmed her optimism about South Africa, but she does not blame her hero.


“Those who came after should have fixed it,” she said.


Even some of the memorials to Mr. Mandela have fallen on hard times. A Johannesburg bridge named for him that crosses over dozens of stalled trains on rusting tracks is a hot spot for muggers. A crack has begun to split at the base of the country’s largest monument to Mr. Mandela: a 30-foot bronze statue in Pretoria, South Africa’s executive capital.


On a bleak winter morning, Desire Vawda watched a group of South Korean tourists take pictures beside the monument. He said he was killing time after protests over unpaid scholarships and tuition fees shut down his college campus.


Mr. Vawda, 17, belongs to a generation that knows Mr. Mandela only as a historical figure in textbooks and films.


To him, Mr. Mandela’s fight to end apartheid was admirable. But the huge economic gap between Black and white South Africans will be on his mind when he votes for the first time next year, he said.


“He didn’t revolt against white people,” Mr. Vawda said. “I would have taken revenge.”


Outside the library of Nelson Mandela University in the coastal city of Gqeberha, Asemahle Gwala said that when he was a student, he spent hours sitting on a bench next to a life-size statue of Mr. Mandela. Students would sit in the statue’s lap, or dress up the statue with clothes and lipstick.


Mr. Gwala, now 26, said he took it as a reminder that Mr. Mandela was human — not the commercial brand he has been turned into.


South Africans, he said, would identify more now with Mr. Mandela if they could see him not as a statue and monument but “as a human being that wanted to just change his world.”



9) Turmoil in Florida’s New State Guard, as Some Recruits Quit

Some who volunteered for the force commissioned by Gov. Ron DeSantis said the group, billed as a natural disaster relief organization, had become too militarized.

By Frances Robles, July 15, 2023

Reporting from Camp Blanding Joint Training Center in Starke, Fla.

“The governor’s office said one of the Guard’s missions would be ‘to ensure Florida remains fully fortified to respond to not only natural disasters, but also to protect its people and borders from illegal aliens and civil unrest.’”

Florida State Guard members, wearing camouflage uniforms, stand in a line with their heads bowed.
Florida State Guard members bowed their heads in prayer during the Florida State Guard graduation ceremony at Camp Blanding Joint Training Center in Starke, Fla. Lawren Simmons for The New York Times

Early last summer, complaining that Washington had failed to provide adequate staffing for Florida’s National Guard, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced that for the first time in 75 years he was activating the State Guard, a force of volunteers that could respond to hurricanes and other public emergencies.


But the deployment this spring has been mired in internal turmoil, with some recruits complaining that what was supposed to be a civilian disaster response organization had become heavily militarized, requiring volunteers to participate in marching drills and military-style training sessions on weapons and hand-to-hand combat.


At least 20 percent of the 150 people initially accepted into the program dropped out or were dismissed, state officials acknowledged, including a retired Marine captain who filed a false imprisonment complaint against Guard sergeants with the local sheriff after he got into a dispute with instructors and was forcibly escorted off the site.


Several of those who left and spoke to The New York Times said they objected to the direction the organization was taking and either quit or were fired when they tried to voice their concerns.


“Gov. DeSantis had the foresight to say, ‘I have this tool in my pocket, all I have to do is take it out and use it,’” Brian Newhouse, a retired Navy officer who helped recruit the first batch of volunteers, said in an interview. “His intention was a disaster response force solely for the citizens of the state of Florida.”


Mr. Newhouse said he spent months recruiting to help lead a program he had understood would be a civilian-style disaster response organization, but arrived at training on June 1 to find out that he was no longer a supervisor, and that the program’s orientation had changed significantly. He said he raised objections on the first day of training and was abruptly escorted out.


“There’s nothing wrong with the military, but it’s not the gold standard for an emergency response organization,” Mr. Newhouse said. “We did not, above all else, want to be characterized as a militia.”


At least 17 other states operate State Guards, but Florida had disbanded its organization in the aftermath of World War II, in 1947. Mr. DeSantis announced its reinstatement as he was preparing a presidential election bid, approving a broad directive to “protect and defend threats to public safety” and provisions that allow some members of the Guard to carry weapons.


The vague language of the mission mandate has prompted concerns from civil rights advocates that the new Guard, which includes a specialized law enforcement unit, could be asked to undertake police-style operations for purposes that are not clearly defined by law. The governor’s office said one of the Guard’s missions would be “to ensure Florida remains fully fortified to respond to not only natural disasters, but also to protect its people and borders from illegal aliens and civil unrest.”


Mr. DeSantis, to whom the new State Guard reports directly, has suggested that concerns over the organization’s future role are unwarranted.


“If you turned on NBC, it was ‘DeSantis is raising an army, and he’s going to raze the planet,’” Mr. DeSantis told reporters last year. “But, you know, the response from people was ‘Oh, hell, he’s raising an army? I want to join! Let’s do it.’”


The state leaders responsible for the program, whose troubles were first reported jointly by The Tampa Bay Times and The Miami Herald, said it made sense to create a military-style organization that could operate easily with the National Guard.


“Since the original formation of the Florida State Guard during World War II, members of the Florida State Guard have been considered soldiers,” said Ben Fairbrother, the organization’s chief of staff.


Of the 150 people accepted into the program, 120 had graduated, program officials said.


“We are aware that some trainees who were removed are dissatisfied,” Maj. Gen. John D. Haas, Florida’s adjutant general, said in a statement.


“This is to be expected with any course that demands rigor and discipline,” he added. “The overwhelming majority of the participants have lauded the training and, in fact, have appreciated the opportunity to self-reflect and become better citizens.”


As planning for the organization got underway this year, ambitions for the group quickly expanded.


The original plan to field 200 volunteers with a budget of $3.5 million, proposed in late 2021, grew to 1,500 people and $108 million. The first-year budget includes $50 million for five aircraft and $2.7 million for boats — equipment that many experts say is beyond the budget of most State Guards.


When the initial boot camp began in June, Mr. Newhouse and six other volunteers who spoke to The Times said they were surprised to find that the training syllabus included such lessons as rappelling off buildings and learning to use a compass to navigate out of the woods, skills they said seemed better suited to training for war.


One of the recruits, who like most of the others did not want to be named because of fear of reprisals, described the training as more like a “military fantasy camp” than the practical instruction expected in topics such as how to respond to hurricanes.

The volunteers said the training seemed poorly structured, with an inordinate amount of time spent, as one of them described it, “marching in fields.” Some of the men said that as veterans with years of experience in the military, they were offended when they were yelled at by junior instructors acting like drill sergeants, who disregarded their previous ranks.


They said they had expected sessions on such things as how to set up distribution of water and other resources during disasters. But that training, a copy of the schedule shows, came only at the very end, after classes on marksmanship and the concealed carry of weapons as well as a “combatives” class on hand-to-hand combat.


Most State Guard units across the country, including large forces in states like New York, California and Texas, act as counterparts to the National Guard, a military organization whose members may also be called out by governors during natural disasters or other civil emergencies.


“The bureaucrats in D.C. who control our National Guard have also refused to increase the number of guardsmen despite our increasing population, leaving Florida with the second-worst National Guardsman-to-resident ratio,” Mr. DeSantis said when he announced the new State Guard last year.


Mr. Fairbrother said the inaugural training session last month included instruction in land navigation, water safety, water rescue, boat rescue, disaster response and recovery and basic life support, including CPR — training that would prepare recruits to respond to a wide variety of emergencies.


He said law enforcement was a necessary component of the Guard’s job because local police officers might themselves become victims of natural disasters.


But Mr. Newhouse and several other recruits said they had understood the concept much differently when they joined, picturing themselves wearing khakis and polo shirts, not camouflage uniforms, in an organization that would be more like the Federal Emergency Management Agency than the U.S. Army.


“It has basically turned into everything we were told it wasn’t going to be,” Mr. Newhouse said.


A 51-year-old former Marine captain who had retired from the military with a disability and later joined the State Guard also clashed with instructors during the initial boot camp last month, raising concerns about the training. In an assault complaint filed with the Clay County Sheriff’s Office, the man said he was accused by the State Guard commander of being the “leader of the group” that had been criticizing the organization and its leadership. He was then forcibly pushed into a van against his objections and driven to the command post, where he was fired and escorted off the base, according to the complaint.


The sheriff’s report said that the former captain’s account appeared to be accurate, but that it constituted neither battery nor false imprisonment, so the office closed the case.

Reached by The Times, the man, who requested anonymity because he feared public backlash, said he could not discuss the matter because it was still under investigation by state authorities. Mr. Fairbrother declined to comment on the incident.


Of the nine original State Guard recruiters and commanders who spent months recruiting for the organization, fewer than a third remain. The staff director who had been a proponent of the less militarized version of the program, appointed in January, was removed from his post just days before the inaugural graduation. The program’s personnel director was fired this week.


Jean Marciniak, a former member of the New York State Guard who runs a website and podcast about the nation’s State Guards, said Florida’s decision to include an armed law enforcement unit was highly unusual, as was the provision in the law putting the State Guard under the governor’s direct command, rather than under the state Department of Military Affairs and the National Guard.


“I’m not saying it’s a red flag, but I’ll say it’s unusual,” Mr. Marciniak said. “The 18 other defense forces do it one way, and Florida is doing it another way.”


Mr. Marciniak posted a notice on his website on Friday saying that his organization, StateDefenseForce.com, had polled its members and decided not to endorse the new force. This was based on a concern much different from that raised by the recruits who left. The website noted that Florida’s State Guard was acting as a military organization when by law it was a civilian-led agency staffed by volunteers who could elect to quit in the middle of an emergency.


Unless the Guard implements an official rank structure and operates under the umbrella of the military, the notice said, “we will encourage our community to not join the organization.”


At the State Guard’s first graduation ceremony on June 30 at Camp Blanding Joint Training Center in Starke, Fla., Mr. Fairbrother told graduates and their families that the agency had built a strong team.


“From the first day the recruits walked through our doors and began this program, I’ve been enormously impressed with the caliber of individuals who chose to join us for this program,” he said. “For the last 28 days, I’ve met paramedics, general contractors, attorneys, welders, truck drivers, cybersecurity experts, C.E.O.s, C.F.O.s and much more.”


Tom Fabricio, the state representative who co-sponsored the bill that created the State Guard, also volunteered for the force and participated in the training.

A civil litigation lawyer in Miami-Dade County, Mr. Fabricio, 46, praised the boot camp as a positive experience. (The Times attended the Guard graduation, but officials would not allow a reporter to speak to any of the other recruits.)


“It was intense,” he said. “A lot of running, push-ups, leadership training, practical training, water rescue training and land navigation — elements that you would see in a traditional Army-type boot camp, however condensed to 28 days.”


He lost 15 pounds.


He said activities such as rappelling off buildings were more about team building than military tactics.


“I view it as hurricane preparedness training in case we were to have a catastrophic storm, which is likely,” he said. “We want to be able to be there and respond.”


Alain Delaquérière and Susan C. Beachy contributed research.